Gong blazes for the small man

Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

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JAMAICA has to find a way to involve the small farmer in the burgeoning formal ganja industry. That is the view of reggae artiste Damian “Junior Gong” Marley.

Marley, youngest son of reggae king Bob Marley, is a passionate campaigner for a global ganja industry. In 2016, he became principal in a company which converted a former 77,000-square-foot prison in California into a farm that will cultivate medical ganja for state dispensaries.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer, Marley said despite progress in the local industry, Jamaica is playing catch-up up to the rest of the world.

“I am happy with the way in which we are moving. We have had to endure a lot over the years to get where we are, but that is the past. However, right now, the truth is we are way behind the rest of the world. In the past, Jamaica was considered to be the place for the best-quality herb. Sadly, that is not the case any more. A number of countries have gone ahead of Jamaica and have legalised their industry and introduced greater strains of herb. It is a shame for us here in Jamaica, but places like California, Colorado, and Canada are way ahead of us,” he stated.

“The challenge for us here in Jamaica is how we can get in the poor people... that original small ganja farmer to have a stake in the ganja industry. It is important that these people are recognised and given a place in this legal industry. These original ganja man risked their freedom and their lives in the early days and it would be a shame if they can't get a slice of the industry now that it is legal. A lot of this has to do with the regulations for legal farmers, and types of facilities, and the start-up capital that is required. But something has to be done — that is the challenge to the authorities,” Marley continued.

Marley's involvement in the ganja industry also extends to High Times Magazine. In 2017 he became one of 20 investors who acquired a 60 per cent stake in the monthly publication, its digital media platforms and the popular Cannabis Cup trade shows.

High Times was established over 40 years ago and is a leading advocate for the legalisation of ganja.

Marley charged that a lot of current players in the industry are major Jamaican figures, and this sidelines the small ganja man.

“What you notice is that a lot of the big players in the industry, 10 years ago would not be caught anywhere near a spliff, and now they are the ones who are owning companies,” he said.

Former Prime Minister P J Patterson and former head of Blue Cross Jamaica, Dr Henry Lowe are among the major players in the growing Jamaican ganja industry.

Last week, the Jamaican government announced a plan which would help small ganja farmers benefit from the industry. Prime Minister Andrew Holness noted that a pilot project will be launched in Accompong, St Elizabeth, and will involve farming to provide raw material for processors.

In 2015, Jamaican legislators amended the Dangerous Drugs Act to ease penalties for persons in the possession of small amounts of ganja and for the smoking of the weed in specified circumstances.

It also paved the way for a scheme of licences, permits and other authorisations relative to ganja for medical, therapeutic and scientific purposes.

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