Vice Chair of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), Vicki Hanson says more needs to be done to allow Jamaica's indigenous ganja farmers to trade in the legal cannabis space.
Hanson made the comment as she sought to explain how the recently-launched Global Drug Policy Index (GDPI) would be used to support greater inclusivity in the industry, namely that of indigenous groups.
According to Hanson, the GDPI, launched in November 2021, is a powerful tool that can be used to measure progress, as well as, enable advocacy.
“It's a way for us to measure our success against what is happening out there in the world. It's a yardstick for us, similar to the Human Development Index and other indexes. With the support of the tool, we hope to expand the policy framework around how we understand ganja,” said Hanson.
“As the industry evolves, more emphasis is placed on incorporating traditional cultivators and trying to include them in the space. When you look at what is happening internationally, Canada and the rest of the Americas, people are paying keen attention to indigenous rights and this is in line with the goals of the Harm Reduction Consortium, of which the GDPI project is a part of,” added Hanson.
Hanson shared that Jamaica by virtue of being one of those Caribbean countries that was first out of the blocks on cannabis reform needs to continue to play a leading role in this way, particularly as it relates to the sacramental use of ganja.
“What Jamaica has done that few other countries have is that we have recognised the cultural and sacramental use of cannabis for the Rastafari community. This is an important position that we need to continue to push at the global level, so as to expand the framework beyond just medicinal use,” said Hanson.
Hanson further explained that the framework in which ganja is understood needs to be expanded to include culture and religion, noting that such an expansion will facilitate greater inclusivity of indigenous populations in the space.
While Jamaica has recognised Rastafari sacramental rights, Hanson said the conversation needs to go further to allow them to trade in the space.
“The key challenge is that the people that built the 'ganja brand' and brand Jamaica in terms of ganja; the Rastafari community, your in the hills small farmers, these communities are still out there in the periphery not being able to enter. And so, it is still an issue of development for these persons,” said Hanson
“Most Jamaican communities have some form of traditional dispensary or herb house. So how can we extend our regulations to capture these persons in that space, taking them out of the illicit space, because that was the intent of regulation-to get persons into a legal space; albeit that we have a medicinal cannabis industry,” added Hanson.
Similarly, ganja advocate Richard 'Dickie' Crawford noted that in order to move the industry forward, the class stratification issue must be fixed so that more traditional cultivators can have access to the space.
Crawford said he is hopeful that in 2022 more small players and traditional communities will have access to the industry but reiterated calls for legislative reform to bolster the process.
“The legislative roadblocks need to be removed by the total industry stakeholders at one stroke of world wide unity. Some will be immediately successful, others will take place after,” said Crawford.
“For example, the 1961 convention which criminalised the plant is an assault on human activity placed by right wing political dictators. Jamaica was not even an independent state in 1961 and this criminalisation has damaged people's lives for 60 years,” he added.
Hanson also agreed that legislative reform was needed, adding she expects 2022 to be the year that the grand plans for the industry will be again brought to the forefront after taking a back burner due to the pandemic.
“There was talk of having what they call a transitional license or transitional permit where small traditional ganja farmers who would have been in the illicit space some time ago are facilitated with less restrictive entry requirements,” Hanson said.
“We hope that in 2022 these plans become a reality and that we will see more players entering the space, particularly those in traditional communities,” Hanson added.