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Stanberry defends Cannabis Licensing Authority

Thursday, November 09, 2017

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PERMANENT Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Donovan Stanberry has come to the defence of the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) which has been accused of being timid in moving ahead with the marijuana industry.

“I want the committee to be assured that the ministry is not dropping the ball… We are really acting within some prescribed areas because there is still a concern in terms of how cannabis is classified internationally as a drug,” Stanberry told yesterday's meeting of Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) at the House of Representatives during a meeting with representatives of the CLA.

He stressed that Jamaica has been treading carefully in setting up the industry to ensure that it is compliant with international laws. “I do not regard the performance of the Cannabis Licencing Authority as tiptoeing,” he stated, noting that the regulations were put in place just 18 months ago.

The pressure has been growing from various stakeholders for the authorities to act decisively to ensure that Jamaica cashes in on the legal marijuana industry, which is projected to be worth US$50 billion in under 10 years in North America alone.

Stanberry pointed out that the CLA has already issued 61 conditional licences, and three — inclusive of two cultivators and two processors — now have licences. The bulk of the applications are for licences to cultivate marijuana, while 90 are for retailing, 47 for processing, an equal number for research and development, and another 27 for transporting. As of the end of October, eight applications were rejected, according to a report to the PAAC from the CLA.

The CLA's Director of Applications and Licensing Annette Henry explained that some of the delays are associated with incomplete applications. “As soon as we receive the applications we acknowledge receipt and within one to five days of receipt we indicate any shortcomings. Once your application form and supporting documents are in hand an e-mail is sent asking for the application fee to be paid,” she outlined. The application, she added, is then moved to the next stage once those fees are paid, but noted that in some instances there are other discrepancies which require further verification and clarification.

Fees are pegged to the United States dollar, and range from US$300 to US$500 for application processing for cultivators. The actual licence fees are US$2,000 and upwards, or the Jamaican equivalent, depending on the category of licence, as well as property size in the case of cultivators.

The CLA was created in 2015 when the Dangerous Drugs Act was amended to decriminalise marijuana in specified circumstances and amounts, such as making it a ticketable offence to possess less than two ounces of the weed, instead of a criminal offence. The changes to the legislation further allow ganja to be used for therapeutic and medicinal purposes, under prescribed conditions and for scientific research by an accredited tertiary institution. It is also now legal for use in religious rituals such as those practised by the Rastafarian sect.

— Alphea Saunders

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