A whiff of good news for Jamaica's ganjaSunday, December 06, 2020
Jamaica's fledging ganja industry, naturally, welcomed the decision last week by the Vienna-based United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from a category of the world's most dangerous drugs.
Almost on cue, the US House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act which would decriminalise cannabis and allow non-violent federal marijuana convictions to be erased.
The World Health Organization's recommendation to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs does not free up the weed completely because it remains on Schedule I of the convention, which requires the highest levels of international control.
Schedule I drugs also include cocaine, fentanyl, morphine, methadone, opium, and oxycodone, the opiate painkiller sold as OxyContin. But taking cannabis off the strictest schedule could lead to the loosening of international controls on medical marijuana.
Some known medicinal uses of the drug include treating seizures, epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and Dravet syndrome and for pain management.
In the US, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act would allow veterans to obtain medical cannabis recommendations from Veteran Affairs doctors. However, the Senate is unlikely to approve the Bill, although a growing number of states have decriminalised use of cannabis.
Cannabis can be sold and used legally in Illinois, Washington State, Oregon, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, California, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, and Alaska.
Some 26 countries, like Jamaica, have decriminalised personal use and some like Canada and Uruguay have legalised the sale and use of cannabis for recreational purposes. The result is that there is a worldwide boom in the number of producers, and supply has increased while prices have fallen.
Regrettably, the industry has attracted numerous people, who know nothing about agriculture or business, rushing into production of marijuana for medical purposes, and there are still problems with bank financing for this activity.
Medical marijuana is being seen as the new panacea for struggling, developing countries, most of which have no history of cannabis production and have no infrastructure for research in medical marijuana.
Ironically, Jamaica, which has been famous for its ganja, has been among the slowest to move into production and sale of legal recreational and medical ganja, thus failing to capitalise on its brand name and expertise.
Seizing opportunities in the global economy depends on moving fast and early, having quantity and quality and marketing. Jamaica is missing the opportunity in ganja where it already has a quality product known in the world market and with capacity to supply.
Is ganja to be like Jamaica's other great agricultural products, like coffee, sugar, rum, bananas, ginger and pimento, and suffer from insufficient supply? Is ganja destined to go the way of “Jamaica style” jerk seasoning and ska music?
We import rum, coffee, ginger, white sugar, banana chips, fruit juice, coconut oil, Irish potato and cigars. Are we one day going to import ganja, bananas and ginger?
We most certainly hope not.