Swiss company eyes Jamaica's ganja industry

BY PATRICK FOSTER
Deputy News Editor
fosterp@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 06, 2019

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Jamaica, over the years, has demanded international attention in various endeavours, sports and music in particular, as well as the less-glamorous illegal export of high-quality ganja.

Now, with the creeping legalisation of cannabis (ganja in Jamaican parlance) in countries across the globe, a European organisation has reached out to the Caribbean island to become involved in the fledgling legal local industry.

SICPA Holdings, a Switzerland-based multinational company, knowing the potential of “the weed”, has sought to lend its expertise in protecting the Jamaican product and maximise returns as more countries come aboard in legalising or decriminalising cannabis.

Representatives of the company visited the island recently to inform local players of the possibilities of its involvement.

“Jamaica has an internationally recognised cannabis heritage that is transitioning into a formal regulatory framework for medical and sacramental use. As one of the fist countries to enable a national framework for cannabis, Jamaica has a unique opportunity to shape regulatory perspectives in other countries,” Alex Spelman, vice-president of SICPA Holdings, told the Jamaica Observer.

“Jamaica will also face unique challenges in transitioning the industry and effectively ensuring compliance of licensees both in country and in potential import and export markets in other countries with cannabis regulatory frameworks,” he explained his proposal to become involved in the country's ganja industry.

The SICPA chief said that his company has a history in protecting the integrity of pharmaceuticals, food products and excisable goods (including appellation-controlled products like wines), as well with identity of documents and cash for consumers, governments and brand-owners around the world.

“In response to the significant increase in illicit trade brought on by globalisation, SICPA has further innovated through the formation, in 2001, of its Product Security Division. Through this unit, the company has established acknowledged expertise in safeguarding brand and product integrity, as well as industry leadership in the equally important functions of track and trace.”

According to Spelman, as a trusted partner of governments worldwide, SICPA brings deep experience working with regulatory agencies, law enforcement and customs and border control authorities “to ensure the integrity, safety, and oversight of more than 50 billion unique items each year subject to regulatory control including tobacco and alcohol”.

“SICPA believes its unique understanding of compliance, traceability and global trade security can greatly benefit Jamaica in standing up and sustaining its cannabis regulatory frameworks,” Spelman said.

He was, however, uncertain about the level of financial investment that his company would make in Jamaica saying that the outcome of discussions with the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) would determine.

“The CLA will be making a determination on what systems and processes it chooses to deploy to support its regulatory objectives including any expenditures required to be budgeted or invested,” Spelman told the Sunday Observer.

Nonetheless, Spelman said his involvement would see the protection of all cannabis growers, large and small, as well as retailers.

“SICPA's traceability solutions are designed for use by government for track and trace of cannabis activities from seed to sale,” he said.

“Our traceability solutions are utilised directly by licensees or via electronic integration with software solutions in use by licensees via Applicable Programming Interfaces (API) to submit regulatory and compliance information.

“Our traceability solution leverages secure unique identifiers that utilise banknote grade anti-counterfeiting technology. These identifiers are placed on all plants and products — down to the individual retail unit level of product — created throughout the supply chain to ensure that all physical plants and products can be quickly and easily verified and all products are securely matched to the data in the traceability solution.”

During their visit to Jamaica representatives of SICPA Holdings met with members of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, among other local interests in the ganja industry.

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