Jamaica unveils new cannabis standards in its push for global markets

Jamaica unveils new cannabis standards in its push for global markets

Observer business writer

Sunday, July 19, 2020

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Jamaican cannabis regulators have announced new standards in their push to expand international export opportunities for locally grown medical cannabis.

The new benchmarks, drafted by the Jamaica Bureau of Standards, represent one of the most significant revisions of cannabis cultivation and processing rules since the legalisation of medical cannabis in Jamaica in 2015.

The new rules, which were unveiled on Wednesday, will align with guidelines established by ASTM International.

ASTM is an international standards organisation based in the United States of America. The guidelines were formulated by ASTM specifically for cannabis products and processes, with an eye toward quality and safety.

It is expected that these new standards will result in better quality control for locally grown medical cannabis and their by-products. Until now, Jamaica's quality control standards were largely non-existent, and farmers primarily relied on traditional cultivation methods that fall short of rigorous quality control standards found in other cannabis markets.

The move to have these new measures in place forms part of a wider revamp of cannabis regulations led by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, which aims to bring international best practices to the local cannabis industry in order to facilitate greater market access via exports.


For consumable cannabis products, the new “cannabis standards” would use four ASTM International guidelines that cover a range of practices, including plant and product analysis and handling. Those guidelines will exist alongside three new locally developed standards for cultivation, processing, packaging, labelling, and handling.

State Minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green, in hailing the new standards, pointed to quality control, consistency, and compliance issues that have been a barrier for Jamaica to unlock its market potential when it comes to participating in the global legal cannabis industry. He highlighted that these regulatory shortcomings have long been a concern for local industry stakeholders.

He explained that these new rules come on the heels of months of agitation over the future of the island's formal commercial cannabis export regulations, which have long been in the making. In recent months, Jamaica has seen the departure of international players in the local industry, such as Aurora and the Green Organic Dutchman, both based in Canada, due to profitability concerns and the long wait for the export regulations being put in place.

Minister Green emphasised that “while we are a locally based industry, we are globally focused…We are focused on exporting our cannabis flower and cannabis products to the entire world. We are quite clear that, for us to have a seamless system of exports, people must be assured that the cannabis that is grown here and the products produced here are safe and are of the highest standards”.

Machel Emmanuel, vice-chair of the Cannabis Technical Committee, formed by the Bureau of Standards two years ago, explained that the decision to work in tandem with ASTM International was based on the collaborative approach that body took.

Emmanuel, who also serves as post-doctoral researcher at The University of the West Indies, Mona on the topic of cannabis, argued that “an approach such as this is in the best interest of small states like Jamaica. It allows us to have some influence over [ASTM] proceedings and by extension influence over international cannabis standards”.

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