Please allow small farmers to benefit from ganja industry, says senator

Please allow small farmers to benefit from ganja industry, says senator

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

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GOVERNMENT Senator Kerensia Morrison is calling on the Government to ensure that small farmers and the little man are not left out of the emerging ganja/cannabis industry.

“Perhaps the most critical point that I am going to make on this issue is that our small farmers, the little man, must not be left behind on this lucrative ganja ship,” Senator Morrison said as she opened the 2018/19 State of the Nation Debate in the Senate last Friday.

“It is very important that ordinary Jamaicans are not marginalised as we capitalise on the benefits of the 'Green Gold' that is the emerging medicinal ganja industry. Small traditional ganja farmers, the same ones who were persecuted and who bore the full brunt of the law, the same ones who first believed in the power of the herb, the same ones who were seen as worthless and as criminals, must not be pushed aside by those who never believed in it, but who today have the big bucks to get into the industry,” she said.

“The small farmer, the bushman, the Maroons, the Kumina practitioners, the Rastas who have long considered the holy herb as sacrament, must not be alienated now that the world has embraced it. They too must be the face of the reward from cannabis. We ought to create a niche for them, include them in the discussions, include them in a regulated framework where they can be trained in standards and monitored as per the requirements of the law and licensing authority.

“Include them; it would be a travesty if they were left out and the face of cannabis, the face of ganja for medicinal use is the face of others who did not believe. All must benefit,” she added.

Morrison expressed two perspectives on the issue as she opened her presentation. The first being that the country has a responsibility to protect the vulnerable from the effects of the drug.

“We cannot discount the possibility that many of our youths will see this as the opportunity to light up. One may argue that cannabis was always accessible to a youth who wanted to smoke and this may not see a change in statistics,” she said.

However, she said that even if that view is not be true, the country should exercise due care, even as it looks at “the big dollars” raked in by other countries which have gone all the way to legalise the drug's recreational use, to not only focus on the gains, but also the socio-economic value and the contingencies to deal with the issues that may emerge.

She said that her other perspective was that Jamaica has the ability to put mechanisms in place that would drive legislation to legalise it.

“We have cannabis that the world craves therefore, and this is what I am supporting, for its promising implications for medicine. The world needs to see Jamaica as an authority and leader in medical research in cannabis, for treating and relieving pain in cancer patients, for glaucoma, for epileptic fit, for victims of opioid, the implications for ganja as an effective treatment are excellent,” she stated.

Senator Morrison also noted that, for a long time, Jamaica has been viewed negatively for the illicit ganja trade. However, she said that these latest developments provide an opportunity to change the country's reputation into one that is positive, by becoming a leading voice in medical research and its use in pharmaceuticals.

“Set up research centres here in Jamaica, let the world come here — not to 'get high' but for medical treatment and to discover more about the weed,” she said.

The State of the Nation Debate — the main annual debate in the Senate — is expected to continue when the Senate meets again, which is likely on Friday.

— Balford Henry

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