Canadian investors show interest in local ganjaTuesday, January 12, 2016
BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
Jamaicans interested in investing in growing of ganja primarily for medical as well as recreational use are being encouraged to look to Canada for partnerships in developing the controversial industry.
Following the lead of several US states in holding referendums which have, so far, been extremely supportive of reducing the legal restraints on the use of the drug, Jamaica amended its Dangerous Drugs Act in April last year. The changes included reducing penalties for possession and smoking of ganja, use of ganja by those of the Rastafarian faith, and use of ganja for medical, therapeutic and scientific purposes.
However, with a limited market for excessive production of ganja (marijuana), and with the threat of increased action against its importation from US authorities, not much has changed in terms of the use of the drug locally, except that people can be ticketed instead of imprisoned for public use or conveyance, and Rastafarians can get an exemption for using it at certain religious events.
But, the advent of Justin Trudeau, son of an old friend of Jamaica, Pierre Trudeau, as a successor to his father who was Liberal Prime Minister of Canada between 1968 and 1984, has rekindled the spirit of collaboration which existed between both countries then.
The young Trudeau first publicly expressed an interest in the legalisation of marijuana, while speaking at a rally in British Columbia on July 24, 2013.
"I’m actually not in favour of decriminalising cannabis. I’m in favour of legalising it. Tax it, regulate. It’s one of the only ways to keep it out of the hands of our kids, because the current war on drugs, the current model is not working," he said.
In an interview in August 2013, Trudeau related that the last time he had used marijuana was in 2010, after he had become a Member of Parliament.
"We had a few good friends over for a dinner party, our kids were at their grandmother’s for the night, and one of our friends lit a joint and passed it around. I had a puff," he explained.
After the Liberal Party formed the government in November 2015 with Trudeau as prime minister, he announced that a federal-provincial-territorial process was being created to discuss a suitable process for the legalisation of marijuana possession for recreational purposes. The plan is to remove marijuana consumption and incidental possession from the Criminal Code. However, new laws will be enacted for greater punishment of those convicted of supplying ganja to minors and for impairment while driving a motor vehicle.
By late November, new Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said that she and the ministers of health and public safety were already working on specifics of the new legislation.
Not only have marijuana stocks soared since Justin Trudeau’s appointment, but there have been comments in the press that Canada’s current medical marijuana industry could expand into a totally legalised sector raking billions in marijuana dollars.
"Those with a stake in cannabis-related companies weren’t just hoping the Liberals would win the federal election, they were (literally) banking on
it,’’ one report commented.
The medical marijuana industry in Canada has a market of some 40,000 users and is estimated to worth C$1.3 billion, much less than its potential. But with expansion of the industry and its market, Canada would be forced to look to countries like Jamaica for raw material.
The Canadian medical marijuana sector believes that growth will happen with the expansion into non-medical marijuana. The marijuana firms have not been resting on their laurels in the interim, but capitalising on the post-election buzz including strengthening ties with local ganja connections.
In western Jamaica, a small group of ganja farmers, who want to turn the area into a domestic hub for a lucrative medical marijuana industry, has been attracting the interest of Canadian medical marijuana firms.
According to Blaine Dowdle, head of International Development and Special Projects at Tweed, a licensed medical marijuana producer in Ontario, Canada, Jamaica already has a particular brand which has been established around cannabis (marijuana).
He says that Jamaican growers have the expertise, while the country has the "unique micro-climates" to produce both good ganja and good coffee.
But now Tweed, Canada ’s largest medical marijuana company licensed by Health Canada, is also showing confidence in Jamaica ’s prospects for developing a strong medical marijuana industry and a partnership with the Canadian industry.
Dowdle, who has been active in Jamaica ’s ganja law reform movement in recent years, noted that "Rastafari and the Jamaican people have a huge opportunity before them and it is critical that it is got right. To get it right will have to ensure that Rastafari freedoms are fully protected, Rastafari has done an incredible job at putting Jamaica on the map and developing a very positive image for Jamaica".
Tweed’s executives were in Negril recently for the Rastafari Rootzfest High Times 2015 Jamaican World Cannabis Cup, a celebration of the freedom of Rastafari to practise their beliefs and to use ganja as a sacrament, which they sponsored.
The promoters said that the Rootzfest was a celebration of the small farmers who have persisted in growing ganja in Jamaica despite persecution, as well as the amended Jamaican anti-drug legislation.
Rootzfest was the first Government sanctioned "exempt" event for Rastafari (which allows free use of the drug), and offered an opportunity for the promoters to communicate their message of Rastafari.
The four-day festival staged November 12-15 at the Long Bay Beach Park in Negril showcased some of Jamaica’s finest marijuana products and by-products. It was produced by Rastafari In Inity and High Times, with Canopy Growth Corp, Tweed’s parent company and the first multi-licensed, geographically diverse marijuana producer in Canada, as sponsor.
In addition to Tweed, Canopy also owns and operates Tweed Farms, which grows marijuana in one of the largest marijuana-producing greenhouses in the world, and Bedrocan Canada, a leader in standardised medicinal cannabis research and production. Canopy Growth Corp is licensed under Canada ’s Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations and supplies a wide selection of marijuana to patients.
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