Cannabis sector players express concern over granting of hemp licences

Cannabis sector players express concern over granting of hemp licences

Observer West reporter

Thursday, January 09, 2020

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NEGRIL, Westmoreland — At least two experts in the cannabis sector have expressed disappointment over the Government's decision to give the greenlight to two companies to cultivate medical hemp in western Jamaica, citing the threat cross pollination poses to the indigenous ganja strains.

Recently Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw participated in ground-breaking ceremonies for two hemp farms — the Virtudes Company licensed US$1-million medicinal hemp farm project in the Big Woods section of Darliston, Westmoreland and the Organic Growth Holdings Medicinal Hemp Project in Long Pond, Trelawny.

Speaking during a session of one of the seminars at the Rastafari Rootzfest, held recently in Negril, former chairman of the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) Dr Andre Gordon expressed his disappointment over the Government's decision to grant licences for hemp cultivation.

“I personally don't understand... I see two hemp farms are about to start operating [and] I would be lying if I told you that I am happy about it. I cannot understand the thinking behind it because it says we don't understand the science behind cross pollination,” expressed Dr Gordon, who is a consultant to the Governments of St Kitts and St Vincent & the Grenadines in the setting up of their cannabis industry.

Ras Iyah V, head of Rastafarian in Inity, promoters of Rootzfest, was equally concerned over the damage that cross pollination from the hemp farm in Westmoreland will pose to traditional ganja growers in and around the Darliston area.

“Internationally it is recommended that a hemp field must be as far as 20 to 25 miles from any ganja cultivation.

“The fact is that Darliston is the most densely ganja cultivated area, then it is obvious that these traditional farmers are at risk of getting their fields pollinated by the hemp field here,” Ras Iyah V argued.

But during the ground-breaking ceremony at the Virtudes Company farm, Shaw moved to allay the cross pollination fears.

“I want to make it absolutely clear that there is a difference between industrial hemp and medicinal hemp. A lot of mischief and misinformation is making its way around, and I want to make it absolutely clear that what we are encouraging in Jamaica through the Cannabis Licensing Authority is not industrial hemp. Industrial hemp is the type of hemp that comes in male and female form and that is the one that can be destructive to our ganja,” Shaw declared.

He noted that the CLA has established an up to 10-mile buffer zone between medicinal hemp farms and ganja farms.

“We are establishing also protocols that relate to a four-to 10- mile buffer between a medicinal hemp site and a formal ganja cultivation site,” he stressed.

“We will equally have frequent monitoring by our environment and monitoring officers of the Cannabis Licensing Authority to ensure compliance with the policy and the absence of male or hermaphrodite hemp plants. All hemp cultivated sites currently registered by the authority are part of a phased approach to allow for data collection, analysis and any potential negative impact on our ganja industry.”

Dr Gordon argued that back in 2015 when the CLA was established, it was then decided that the indigenous product should be protected from cross pollination.

“I can tell you that when we set up the CLA there was a requirement that you could not just import any cultivar, any strain, any chemovar for growth and sale here, because we have our own indigenous product that if you are not careful, cross pollution will completely wipe out a lot of those in a short while,” Dr Gordon said.

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