Paulwell joins lobby to get banking services for cannabis industry

Paulwell joins lobby to get banking services for cannabis industry

Senior staff reporter

Friday, May 03, 2019

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THE Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) is again being pressed about its role in charting the way forward to enable the legal cannabis industry to access financial services and become a part of the formal economy.

East Kingston and Port Royal Member of Parliament Phillip Paulwell — a member of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) — said Wednesday that Jamaica continues to be at a disadvantage as it awaits the United States to lead the way in opening up the industry in order to address the issue of banking for cannabis.

“We are wasting an opportunity where there is a significant window now, and the Americans are going to fill that window very soon if we do not get our act together The ganja industry is for us the gold that we have not been able to find elsewhere. I believe that we are wallowing in bureaucratic humbugs and delays in not getting the regulations in place to facilitate exports,” Paulwell told a meeting of the parliamentary committee at Gordon House, which had in attendance BOJ Senior Deputy Governor John Robinson, and his team, and officials of the finance ministry.

Paulwell lamented that budding legal cannabis businesses are constrained by the financial system that sees them as rogues and not in legitimate operations, thereby stifling their ability to engage in “proper banking”.

He said it will take significant advocacy, and diplomacy to enable the industry to become a part of the formal sector as the current cash-based activities will prevent “respectable” persons from wanting to be involved as well as institutions such as the universities that could be earning significant revenues but are hamstrung by the view of suspicion and lack of acceptability.

He pointed out that this acceptability will come as soon as the Americans liberalise their system, at which point Jamaica will find itself behind.

“It is unfair to us here to have to await that game changer which in the long run will prevent our people from taking advantage of our this opportunity now and blighting our chances going forward,” Paulwell stated.

The BOJ senior deputy governor told the committee that the bank has been holding meetings with the various associations representing the industry to see how their needs can be accommodated in the formal banking system, but that so far there has been no progress in that regard.

PAAC member and Government MP Leslie Campbell also expressed concern regarding the lack of financial services for local industry: “It seems that we are really dependent on what happens in Israel and Canada and the US to drive our processes. That is a little uncomfortable for me, and I think it's time that we ramp up those investigation and try to facilitate our local players,” he stated.

Last week Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw said Jamaica was aggressively lobbying the United States to relax the rules to accommodate legal cannabis banking, via the correspondent banking system.

“Our ambassador is hard at work. We are using a window of opportunity (where) President Trump recently announced that they will be allowing the growing of hemp for medicinal purposes, and in that regard they are beginning to relax some of the banking rules surrounding that,” he said.

“The US still has a ban on ganja businesses with a high THC (the psychoactive element of marijuana) being done through the formal banking system. It's something we have to be lobbying in an aggressive way because it does militate against our steady progress,” he said.

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