Ganja growers want answers

Ganja growers want answers

Senior staff reporter

Friday, February 07, 2020

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GANJA growers are calling on the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) to clarify the conditions under which cannabis has been exported from the island, even before the passage of the import/export regulations that are still in draft.

“Some companies have been allowed to export and there is confusion as to whether it's samples for testing, or it's for export. There is nothing on the CLA website to guide how do you get this special permission for export.

“They're rather sensitive about it because I wrote them about the confusion [and] I got a very terse response. There needs to be a level playing field that all companies should know what are the procedures for export, if it's export or export for samples or testing,” acting programme director of the Ganja Growers and Producers Association Jamaica Paul Burke said in an recent Jamaica Observer interview.

Last year, 22 pounds of legal cannabis were exported to Canada by licensed cannabis company Global Canna Labs — a move which was lauded by Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw as a step in the right direction.

Burke said the group is “dismayed” by the indication given by the agriculture ministry that the regulations will go to Parliament in March since the regulations should have been ready by June 2017, which means it is now two years behind.

He said the cannabis growers continue to push for a moratorium, to allow traditional farmers to get involved in the regulated industry.

The acting programme director said, too, that the Dangerous Drugs (amendment) Act of 2015 is in need of updating to match the fast-moving developments in the legal cannabis industry globally.

He pointed to a private member's motion tabled by Member of Parliament (MP) for St Andrew South Western, Angela Brown Burke, which he said had been languishing in the House of Representatives from July 2018, as well as another motion tabled by the MP in 2019.

Burke argued that the 2015 legislation, which was progressive in 2015, is now prohibitive.

“It is now restrictive. It is now a backward piece of legislation and it needs to be reviewed and amended,” he argued.

Burke also said the CLA's “kind of Gestapo behaviour” is mandated by the regulations that were first forged under the People's National Party Administration, “which carried it down a wrong road and this Administration that followed down that wrong road, and that is why we have this confusion”.

Brown Burke's motion, which is before the House of Representatives, calls for a name change of the Dangerous Drugs Act to 'the Jamaica Cannabis Development Act' and provisions to create a more open and accessible, regulated cannabis industry for consumers and producers, using Canadian experience as a possible model.

She also wants more tangible support for public education, which addresses established medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant, as well as the use and abuse of cannabis.

Brown Burke says Rastafarians should be allowed to monetise their sacramental use of cannabis and that a moratorium and support should be provided for small and traditional ganja farmers to be meaningfully involved in the regulated cannabis industry.

She is also advocating for the establishment of a 'Cannabis Industry Council', with meaningful representation from members of the Rastafarian community.

Responding to some of the concerns, a director of the CLA Board, Delano Seiveright, argued that no other country in the Caribbean has achieved even quarter of what Jamaica has, and that the CLA and its board deserve commendation for its efforts “in a space that grossly lacks resources and is riddled with very complex policy, legal, regulatory, social and geopolitical dynamics, for some of which Jamaica has no control”.

He pointed out that the regulations for the cannabis industry is a multifaceted process, which includes several government ministries and entities.

“Minister Floyd Green noted recently that we are at the final stage and the matter will be before Parliament in short order. This is needed to bring fulsome clarity,” he remarked.

Seiveright said the CLA has completed a detailed review of the draft import/export regulations, which will make Jamaica one of only 10 countries in the world with an export regime.

According to the director, “this poises Jamaica to confirm its place as a leader in the cannabis industry internationally”.

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