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Opposition MP calls for policy on cannabis

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

OPPOSITION spokesman on tourism, Dr Wykeham McNeill is urging the Government to quickly formulate a policy framework to define its position on cannabis.

Dr McNeill says cannabis could provide a number of opportunities, including a new retail market for marijuana, with appropriate properties operating as dispensaries for the legal sale of the product.

“This further gives us the opportunity for branding products such as Orange Hill ganja, as well as a dedicated source of income straight from the retail market to these approved growers,” he said.

The Opposition spokesman said there could also be guided tours of approved farms, which would add another dimension to Jamaica's attractions market.

“The health and wellness market and all the spa and medicinal offshoots of this are another unexplored frontier in the industry,” he added.

According to Dr McNeill, farmers were still trying to acquire land in Orange Hill, Westmoreland and Accompong, St Elizabeth, areas which the Government had given special zone licences for cannabis production under a pilot programme.

Under the programme, which aims to eliminate illegal cultivation of cannabis, farmers are to grow ganja in those areas to provide raw material for processors.

At the same time, he said he had concerns about the Cannabis Licensing Authority issuing licences for properties that apply for dispensaries, but yet the role of the Jamaica Tourist Board remains uncertain.

“The recommendation of the JHTA (Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association) is that those properties that want to apply and qualify should be allowed to go ahead, but there is still an uncertainty about the way forward in the sector. We need the Ministry of Tourism to outline a formal policy framework to govern cannabis in the tourism sector, including how they intend or not, to act as a catalyst for the cannabis industry. Secondly, the Ministry of Agriculture and the commissioner of lands need to work together with local producers to formalise how they make the appropriate linkages to facilitate this potentially huge economic contributor to become a reality,” he said Dr McNeill.

The Opposition spokesman pointed to United Nations estimates that 37,000 acres of illegal ganja is grown in Jamaica for each crop cycle, with a production of approximately 66 million pounds of the weed per year.

According to Dr McNeill, given the estimated value of between $9,000 and $22,000 per pound, this equates to $1.48 trillion, or about 70 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

– Alphea Saunders