Regional

Manchester ganja interests missing

Sparse turnout for association’s recruitment; Burke still optimistic

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND Sunday Observer staff reporter sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 11, 2014    

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Programme Director for the Ganja Future Growers and Producers Association Paul Burke said he hopes that before the end of May a new date can be set for another membership promotional and recruitment meeting in Manchester following the paltry attendance at the recent event.

The full complement at the scheduled meeting for Saturday, May 3 in the auditorium at the Manchester High School was Burke, an association representative at the door as first contact, a committee member of the association in the audience and five guests including the Jamaica Observer reporter.

"We might have to reorganise the Manchester meeting because I don't think we did enough publicity on it. It will cost us but it is important for us," Burke said.

He told the Sunday Observer that with sufficient advertisement of the event he would be expecting at least 100 new members signing up from the Manchester meeting.

Burke said that there was about 50 people from the southern chapter (Manchester, St Elizabeth, Clarendon and St Catherine) who already made the trip to Kingston to register, but the membership and recruitment meeting is meant to give others a chance.

Notwithstanding the small audience, a number of issues ranging from the objectives to the composition of the organisation were discussed.

The Ganja Future Growers and Producers Association is a collaborative initiative spearheaded by groups which include the Cannabis Commercial and Medicinal Task Force, the National Alliance for the Legalisation of Ganja and the Ganja Law Reform Coalition.

"We don't want some bureaucrats sit down and say this is (what) a Ganja industry should look like. We want to be a strong voice, (an) umbrella group," Burke said.

He maintained that his group does not and will never advocate for the (public) smoking of ganja.

Burke said that he "envisaged" a ganja industry in Jamaica where a traditional farmer will continue to grow the type they desire and sell on the local market and farmers who may go into partnership to supply specific quality and demand to countries that may want to import.

Going forward, he said that there is a need for public education of the risk factors, research on the various strains of ganja and an "interim" legislation as a step closer in creating a regulated industry.

"If you are to wait for the government to dot every "I" and cross every "T", Mexico will legalise before us. Once Mexico legalise a done it done; apart from who come to Jamaica because of the Jamaica brand, the environment and the tourism. Right now is a time for Cannabis," he said.

Burke believes that there are many economic opportunities for ganja and its by-products, but demand and supply will have to be carefully considered as there is the chance of glut on the market like with other crops.

He said that he aims to help in forming an organisation that is democratic, participatory, transparent and where there is equity.

Specific guests expressed interest in growing as well as making by-products from the plant.

"It has been a short meeting, it has been a small meeting but I still think it has been a productive meeting," Burke told his Mandeville audience.

North East St Elizabeth Member of Parliament Raymond Pryce is among the parliamentarians who are lobbying for the legalisation of ganja to facilitate a thriving ganja industry in Jamaica.

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