American says he wants to protect Jamaica’s natural ganja

BY HORACE HINES Staff reporter hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, September 24, 2016

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Anticipating that original ganja strains are likely to become extinct after the new, legitimate ganja industry opens up in Jamaica, American businessman Mark Santiago has committed to taking equipment into the island to ensure that the original genetics of the weed are preserved.


Santiago, who invests heavily in the ganja sector in America, is now waiting to get the greenlight from the Cannabis Licensing Authority to kick off his business here in Jamaica with his local partner, Courtney Laing.


"I have equipment in America that I am bringing to Jamaica which will assist us in being able to preserve the indigenous Jamaican strain that we call the land races," Santiago told the Jamaica Observer.


He explained that a land race is something that is grown in a particular geographic area for "many, many, many generations".


"It’s of pure genetic stock, so it looks the same as its great, great-grandfather did. lt has not changed from the beginning of time," the American businessman expounded.


He envisions that as soon as the Jamaica Government opens up the new industry "a lot of new varieties (of ganja) are coming in".


"When I say new, I mean varieties that have been created by men... mixes with this and that and create some new variety. Those varieties are not going to come here immediately, but the next few years, and they are going to come and they are going to start poisoning and changing the genetics of original Jamaican herbs and I see a situation which I want to avoid," he argued.


"The original collie herb that your grandfather enjoyed, it won’t be here anymore: it will be gone, disappear, because it is mixed with this and mixed with that. It will be unrecognisable. So I will be bringing equipment to help to preserve these genetic strains for the next 20, 30 years. We can pull them (plants) out every five years and then grow them and then save them again and keep going over and over again."


Santiago, who refers to himself as a "ganjapreneur", noted that his planned preservation of the original genetics of the weed is his way of giving back to the industry in which he plans to become a major player locally.


"To me, that is my version of philanthropy, taking a chunk of my business capital, equipment — very expensive nitrogen-pumping equipment that cost a fortune to operate monthly — and dedicating it just to the cause," he remarked.


"I am not going to make any money from that, I am not selling those I am just keeping them here. A lot of people coming here to profiteer, to sell this, to sell that, to export. I think we have to give back. When you are given an opportunity to set up, when you are given a chance to come into a country to develop a new industry, the least you can do is to give back to those that have helped paved that way, blazed the path for you."


His plan is to enter into the new ganja market here in Jamaica by producing a diversified range of products such as pharmaceuticals, edibles, oils, "electronic spliffs" among others under his local Star Leaf brand, from ganja cultivated locally.


"A lot of the business I do in America, I am going to do it here," Santiago expressed.


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