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Delano Seiveright takes ganja to the Jamaica Stock Exchange

BY DESMOND ALLEN Executive Editor — Special Assignment allend@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, January 27, 2014    

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ABOVE ground, ganja remained a pariah for decades. Underground, however, the weed has flourished, defying all legal constraints. Luckily, it seems.

All of a sudden, ganja has burst forth from underground and has caught the unprecedented attention of the world.

In Jamaica, the most spectacular evidence of ganja's rebirth, arguably, is the invitation to the ganja lobby, represented by the Ganja Law Reform Coalition (GLRC) to present at the highly regarded Investments and Capital Markets Conference 2014 staged by the Jamaica Stock Exchange last week.

And ganja is not yet decriminalised or legalised in Jamaica!

The list of speakers over the three days of the conference included Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller; Charles Ross; Allison Peart; Giorgio Valentini of the World Bank; Bert Van Selm of the IMF; Lissant Mitchell; Adam Stewart; Michael Ranglin; Gary Allen; Kelly Tomblin; Leo Williams; David Mullings; and Gregory White.

The man chosen to deliver the sermon on "Investment Opportunities from Legalising Marijuana" was Delano Seiveright, the young politico whose light flickered bright in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) constellation for a time.

The weekend before, Seiveright, Paul Burke, the People's National Party (PNP) firebrand, and GLRC chairman Paul Chang had pulled together the disparate groups and individuals comprising the ganja lobby into a loose, if highly spirited coalition at a forum attended by potential investors from the United States and Canada.

They achieved the historic feat of launching Jamaica's first Future Ganja Growers and Producers Association, at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies

That forum set the stage for Seiveright's presentation which was a compelling listen, chock-full of enticing information that the men in pinstripes and grey suits and the women in power suits would have found difficult to ignore.

"The investment opportunities from legalising ganja are huge," argued Seiveright.

"It is important to note that recent moves in the United States and elsewhere have created an industry where many players have never even touched the plant. "In Colorado alone, the industry incorporates lawyers, architects, laboratory technicians, real estate developers, academia, accountants, doctors, nurses, tour operators, agronomists, security, clerical personnel and an amazing range of spin-offs," he said.

Colorado is the first US state to legalise ganja and some of the key players in the legalisation campaign were in prominent attendance at the historic forum. A lengthening string of 20 other US states are at varying levels of legalisation, many having noticed that Canada, their big neighbour to the north, had already legalised the weed for medicinal purposes.

"To put it in context, Colorado has more ganja dispensaries than Starbucks," said Seiveright, mentioning a brand well known to most of the gathering in the upscale Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in the New Kingston business district.

"The overall ganja market in the United States, according to authoritative sources, is estimated to value over US$100 billion, just several billion dollars short of the alcohol industry.

"For Jamaica, we don't know how large our sector is, but the investment opportunities are obvious for many and less so in some cases. The more obvious relate to the impact on our agriculture, tourism and financial sectors.

"Many farmers and potential farmers stand to benefit from what would undoubtedly be an increase in the number of tourists visiting the island and feeling at ease in acquiring our Brand name product. However, our farmers will have to invest in rehabilitation efforts and increasing and improving on the variety of strains on the island.

"Small hotels, in particular, stand to benefit from rustic and boutique offerings around ganja that will attract more visitors. One company in Colorado is already booked 100 per cent for ganja tours right into the summer throughout the state. Here being the home of reggae, Bob Marley and high grade, there is doubt in our minds that quality ganja tours here will be so much of a hit, that operators will struggle to keep up with the numbers.

"There also exists significant export opportunities to Canada, however, we must see to it that we focus on value added and or quality products so that we can command high prices

"The financial services sector will benefit in many ways including loans to farmers, tour operators, hoteliers, café operators and so on, so that they can build up the infrastructure to operate viable services and good products. In this industry we see where quality and branding greatly affect price.

"Our marketers, real estate professionals, accountants, developers, laboratory technicians, and other professionals are going to be kept very busy fine-tuning their services as Jamaica's status as a hub for ganja solidifies.

"We, of course, note the development of Medicanja, of which I am involved, Jamaica's first medical ganja company by Jamaican scientist and entrepreneur, Dr Henry Lowe who, like several others, sees the incredible opportunities for research and product development using the medicinal compounds called the CBDs (the non-psychoactive compounds).

"We should never lose sight of the fact that Jamaica was one of the first countries in the world to develop a commercial product from ganja, "Canasol" used to treat glaucoma. It would be a crying shame if we sit and allow ourselves to lose out to a booming multibillion-dollar industry in Europe and North America," said Seiveright.

Seiveright's appearance at the Stock Exchange conference, impressive as that was, is not yet a sign that the ganja lobby is home and dry. When he asked, by a show of hand, how many of Jamaica's business crème de la crème in the room had ever used ganja, only one hand went up, and was quickly withdrawn.

"Well I'm surprised by that, as just late last year, the findings in a Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP) survey -- commissioned by the Henry Lowe -- led Biotech R&D Institute and Pelican Publishers and carried out by prominent Pollster Don Anderson and his company Market Research Services --highlighted that 57% of all persons claim to have used ganja at some time in the past, with 39% claiming to no longer use ganja, but 38% say they still smoke it and 34% use it as a drink," said Seiveright quizzically.

Seiveright suggested that the biggest enemy against Jamaica achieving its rightful benefits from ganja was time.

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