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Obama fund-raiser at ganja forum

Historic first marijuana growers association to protect small farmers

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

Monday, January 20, 2014    

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ONE of United States President Barack Obama's top fund-raisers was among overseas marijuana advocates who supported a bid, Saturday, to launch Jamaica's first ganja growers and producers association.

Wanda James who is one of the most well known of the activists behind the legalisation of ganja in Colorado, the first US state to do so, told the Cannabis Stakeholders Forum that her group, the Cannabis Global Initiative, wanted to ensure that Jamaica got what it deserves — "which is a lot" — from a ganja industry.

"The brand is Rastafarian's. The brand has been coming out of Jamaica for a very long time," said James who is married to Colorado ganja activist, Scott Durah whom she met in Jamaica.

Organisers of the Forum described James as one of Obama's most powerful fundraisers, who was no doubt pivotal in helping the Democrats to carry the state of Colorado in the 2012 presidential elections.

The Forum which was addressed by Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton and Justice Minister Mark Golding, was chaired by the principal of the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies, Professor Archie McDonald. It pulled together ganja advocates spanning a wide cross section of Jamaican society, from politicians to professionals and potential investors from the US and Canada.

Justice Minister Mark Golding, who could not be physically present due to illness, gave well wishes by telephone amplified by microphone and spoke about the legislative procedure in Jamaica vis-à-vis international conventions on marijuana, ,in a session chaired by Kingston Mayor Angela Brown Burke.

Following almost seven hours of spirited discussions of the issues touching on legalisation of ganja in Jamaica on Saturday, the packed multi-functional room of the UWI main library agreed, without dissent, to move ahead with forming the Ganja Future Growers and Producers Association to lead in the development of a local ganja industry.

They immediately sent a signal that the association would move to protect the many small ganja growers across the length and breadth of Jamaica, referred to as "traditional cultivators", by recommending that "only small and medium-sized Jamaican farmers be licensed to grow cannabis in the first five years".

According to a resolution presented by one of the chief organisers, Paul Burke, smoking of ganja should be banned in public spaces, similar to the ban on tobacco smoking, and that heavier sanctions be imposed on all illegal exporters of the weed.

Burke, Delano Seiveright and Paul Chang have been leading the campaign to decriminalise or legalise ganja at the head of the Cannabis Commercial and Medicinal Task Force, the Ganja Law Reform Coalition, and the National Alliance for the Legalisation of Ganja which put on the Forum.

In attendance were politicians, academics, entertainers, potential investors, researchers, Rastafarians, media personalities and students. They included Raymond Pryce, the People's National Party member of parliament for North-east St Elizabeth; Mike Henry, the Jamaica Labour Party MP for Central Clarendon; Floyd Green, head of JLP affiliate G2K; Professor Rupert Lewis; Dr Fred Hickling; Dr Colin Gyles of UTech; Professor Clinton Hutton of UWI; Marcia Griffiths of Bob Marley's I-Threes; Collette Campbell, general manager of the Small Business Association and Dickie Crawford.

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