Gov't urged to rethink medical ganja policy

Gov't urged to rethink medical ganja policy

Monday, October 02, 2017

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Two of the country's leading thinkers have called on the Government to rethink its policy approach towards the development of the medical ganja industry.

Former governor general Professor Kenneth Hall disagrees with the establishment of the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) to regulate an industry that is at the embryonic stage.

The CLA is responsible for all matters pertaining to the cultivation, transportation, processing, retail, and research and development, each of which requires a licence to participate. Each licensee is required to conduct transactions only with those who are also in possession of a licence.

Speaking recently at a conference hosted by the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC) in Kingston, Hall suggested that Government should, instead, set up an agency to promote the development of the medical ganja industry. He further argued for the establishment of a single agency to lead the development of science, technology and innovation (STI) in Jamaica as is the case in India, a world power in inventions.

Scientist and entrepreneur Professor Henry Lowe also lamented how the medical ganja industry was being managed, noting that there was “too much control”. He pointed to reports that the bank of Jamaica had instructed commercial banks against doing business with players in the medical ganja industry.

Lowe warned that if the reports were true “this would send the industry underground, causing significant losses to the formal economy”.

According to Lowe, projections were that the global medical ganja industry would value US$55.8 billion by 2025.

In his opening address to the UCC conference — held under the theme 'Innovation, Technology, Leadership - A Paradigm Shift' — Professor Lowe pointed to several entrepreneurial opportunities for innovation in science and technology. These include the:

US$5-trillion global agricultural industry;

US$3-trillion health and wellness tourism;

US$1.3-trillion pharmaceutical industry;

US$295-billion nutraceutical industry by 2022;and

US$3.5-billion information communication technology industry.

He said that Jamaica could overcome barriers to innovation by transforming our universities into 'entrepreneurial universities' , linking science and business and providing research solutions to industry needs. Other strategies to overcome barriers to innovation include:

• Establishing clear policies and strategies at the regional and national levels to boost innovation;

Transforming science education to provide solutions to development issues;

• Placing emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and make the teaching more interesting;

• Focus on lucrative industries by creating niches and applying innovation;

• Caribbean private sectors should take more risks and position themselves to tap into the lucrative and growing industries;

•The regional STI institutions should implement practical initiatives to boost innovation in the Caribbean; and

•A mentorship programme for young scientists could help as future innovation ... young people and young scientists.

Lowe described UCC, which is marking its 25th anniversary, as a “trailblazer which speaks of innovation”. In welcoming conference participants Dr Winston Adams, UCC Group executive chairman, noted that “innovation is what allows a university like UCC to keep rebuilding, reshaping and re-educating itself to remain relevant”.

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