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Special permit to enable more small farmers to enter medical cannabis field

Monday, September 28, 2020

KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) says the Cultivator's (Transitional) Special Permit Policy, which is in an advanced stage of completion, will enable more small and subsistence farmers to access the opportunities available within the medicinal cannabis industry.

Acting senior legal officer at the CLA, Sheldon Reid, in a JIS interview said that the special permit, which will last for two years, will allow farmers to continue to cultivate while they prepare to transition to licensing status.

He noted that the cost of obtaining a licence is prohibitive for some small and subsistence farmers, and argued that the permit will provide another avenue for them to enter the legal sector.

“We want to give you this permit for you to cultivate your cannabis where you are, and for two years, we want you to use that time to develop your facility to the standard that is needed for licencing, and after the two years, you can apply for your licence,” he explained.

Reid said that once the policy is in place it is expected that more small farmers will progress into the licensed regime.

He noted that, already, many farmers, while they are cultivating illegally, are doing so “at such incredible standards” and all they need is the licence.

“Some of the sites that we have visited, the farmers are very organised. They use organic material and we were pleased to see that they are ready to transition in terms of what they are doing on the ground now,” he said.

It is proposed that those who seek to enter the industry via the special permit will benefit from concessions such as reduced and deferred fees, and variations in existing infrastructure and security arrangements.

“A major benefit is that you don't need as much capital as the typical licensees, as you wouldn't have all of the security features that you would need to get a licence,” Reid noted.

He said individuals are required to have access to legitimate land, with at least five feet of fencing, which he notes, could comprise “bamboo and hog wire”.

Mother farm arrangements are also being considered as a part of the framework for the special permit.

“If you have one transitional permit holder, who is selling his ganja to a licensed processor or cultivator, what we would want is an arrangement where the licensed cultivator or processor — big brother or mother — helps him with building out his facility to reach the standards. He helps him with cultivating his ganja according to a certain standard,” Reid explained.

Since June this year, the authority has engaged in consultation sessions with licensees, small and traditional ganja farmers, and ministries, departments and agencies to inform the policy.

“With this ongoing consultation, we have come to an agreement about the fees that we are proposing, the duration of the permit and the overall sustainability of the programme,” he said.

Reid said the CLA's goal is for the special permit fee to be at least 50 per cent lower than the cost to obtain a tier-one cultivator's licence, which is US$1,000.

The CLA is aiming to have the special permit integrated into the regulatory regime before the end of quarter four of the 2020/2021 financial year.