On the edge of ganja’s million$

On the edge of ganja’s million$

Foreign investors who left Jamaica in frustration willing to return if…

BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor publications davidsonv@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, April 09, 2016

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A number of foreign investors who grew frustrated at Government bureaucracy and left Jamaica last year could return to the island if the new Administration formalises the regulations governing the ganja industry.


Delano Seiveright and Paul Burke, two of the island’s leading cannabis law reformers, in separate interviews with the
Jamaica Observer, confirmed the potential investors’ frustration.


"Some investors had got frustrated, and several of them have lost interest. However, they say once Jamaica gets its act together, they will be willing to re-engage, but they need to hear details as to what is the regulatory framework, how exactly will the licensing regime be structured, and when will the regulatory framework and the licensing regime be activated," Seiveright revealed.


He declined to name the firms, arguing that he had to get their permission first. However, he said they were from the United States, Canada and Europe.


"I know of at least four," he said.


Burke corroborated the information. However, he, too, declined to name the firms, but noted that last week’s announcement by the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) that it did not start accepting applications on April 4 as initially indicated would further frustrate the potential investors.


According to CLA Chairman Dr Andre Gordon, the transition to a new Government has resulted in a delay in the regulations being developed and approved.


He said that while Karl Samuda, who now has portfolio responsibility, has seen the draft regulations, a meeting needed to be held with Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, who needs to review and approve the regulations for the industry to be able to commence operations.


"With both ministers just having taken office, it should be understandable that it has taken time to get matters such as these addressed," Gordon said in a news release.


Last week, Burke said he was "very critical" of the red tape applied by the previous Government to the cannabis licensing regime.


He also said that he was disappointed by the explanation given by the previous minister, Anthony Hylton.


Seiveright told the Sunday Observer that most of the investors that left Jamaica had an interest in medicinal ganja.


"Most of them were looking at establishing local partnerships to do medicinal ganja and to do value-added products from marijuana," he said. "Some of these companies, the scale of investments is in the millions of US dollars."


Last month, renowned Jamaican scientist Dr Henry Lowe, in an address to the Jamaica Exporters’ Association, pointed out that the island could earn millions in foreign exchange from nutraceuticals and medical cannabis.


"With limited effort, there is an estimated potential earning of over US$300 million from these two products in the next three years if the products are properly marketed," said Lowe, who has developed a number of nutraceutical products using Jamaican plants.


Lowe has also produced a line of medicinal ganja products through his Medicanja company.


"If we in Jamaica are to compete internationally, the regulations, such as the licensing process and standards for commercial ventures must be transparent, fair, open, and accessible to the public. However, if we are not careful and [are] taking too long, we will be overtaken and made redundant," Lowe warned in his address.


He said that, globally, the cannabis landscape is undergoing dynamic changes in research, legislation and commercial developments.


"We have been talking for too long about the development and implementation of policy and programmes for cannabis," he lamented, adding: "We have a short window to move ahead quickly if we are to make up for lost ground."


Dr Lowe, who is known worldwide for his cancer and ganja research, pointed to an ArcView Group report highlighting the fact that medical and recreational marijuana sales jumped 74 per cent in 2014 to hit US$2.7 billion, compared with roughly US$1.5 billion in 2013, ranking cannabis as the fastest-growing industry in the United States.


Last October, the Jamaica Information Service reported that the Government granted a ganja research licence to Timeless Herbal Care Limited (THC), a Canadian nutraceutical and pharmaceutical company.


The licence was the first granted to a private entity and the third to be issued, following approvals given to the University of the West Indies and the University of Technology, Jamaica.


It was not clear yesterday whether THC was one of the firms to which Seiveright and Burke referred. And calls to its listed Jamaica number went unanswered.


The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act was brought into operation in Jamaica on April last year.


More popularly known as the ‘Ganja Law’, it makes possession of two or less ounces of ganja a ticketable offence; prohibits the smoking of ganja in public places; and makes provisions for the granting of licences as well as the establishment of a regulated industry for ganja for medical, scientific and therapeutic uses.


The law also provides for the creation of the CLA.


Last November, then Justice Minister Mark Golding received the Kurt Schmoke Award for Achievement in the Field of Law at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Washington, DC.


Golding was recognised for the role he played in advancing the Jamaican Government’s support for sweeping ganja reform.


"Every once in a rare while, a government official steps up and out to provide much-needed leadership on a controversial issue," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "That’s what Mark Golding did, with skill and courage, thereby enabling Jamaica to leap to the forefront of nations in embracing just and sensible reform of cannabis laws."


Golding’s contribution to the reforms was recognised by Seiveright, who said the former minister’s efforts impressed the investors who pulled out of Jamaica.


"On the bright side, they were happy that we moved on the legislation side; we passed a law that would basically support the existence of a medical marijuana regime," Seiveright said.


"The concern, however, was that they were not getting any clear idea as to when the medical marijuana regime would be put in place and supported by regulation, and they felt that there was too much confusion surrounding that," he added.

 


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