Cannabis Licensing Authority begins work on Alternative Development Programme
<p><span>Cannabis Licensing Authority Chairperson, Hyacinth Lightbourne, addressing a recent ganja grower stakeholders consultation at Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) auditorium, in New Kingston.</span></p>

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — The Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) has commenced work to implement an Alternative Development Programme (ADP) to provide more inclusion for Jamaica's traditional farmers in the developing ganja industry.

The programme aims to prevent and eliminate the illicit cultivation of plants and channel them through legal streams.

The 1998 Action Plan, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, provides for the inclusion of such a programme through specifically designed rural development measures consistent with sustained national economic growth.

Chairperson of the CLA, Hyacinth Lightbourne, said the ADP's introduction, which was approved by cabinet, is part of the balanced and comprehensive drug-control strategy that started with the decriminalisation of small quantities of ganja, and for the issuing of commercial licences.

Addressing a recent ganja grower stakeholders meeting at Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) auditorium in New Kingston, Lightbourne acknowledged the prevailing challenges which traditional small farmers with little or no funding support, encounter in accessing the regulated market.

As a result of this, she said a number of them have indicated that they might be forced to remain in the illicit market due to the exclusionary nature of the existing regime.

“If traditional farmers are excluded, then one of the fundamental reasons for developing this industry would have failed, as the programme is intended to provide a legal alternative for those who traditionally cultivate illicit crops,” she emphasised.

Noting that the model involves crop substitution in other countries where it is utilised, such as Uruguay and Bolivia, Lightbourne said Jamaica's version will entail community-based organisations/associations guiding and monitoring the establishment of alternative ganja farm markets through licensed processors, adding that “the CLA is not allowed to administer this programme”.

“What we are trying to do is to bring the baby to term and then hand it over... to the community associations. So, the programme would be owned by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, and the Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (MSME) Unit in particular, (which) would work closely with the CLA and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA),” she added.

Among the programme's stipulations are the tagging of plants under a track and trace mechanism; sale of products through licensed processors; farmers' alignment to community-based associations/organisations, and accommodating special groups, such as the Maroons and Rastafarians; and maximum cultivations not exceeding half an acre per farmer.

Lightbourne said cabinet has approved pilot implementation in two communities, to be determined following the completion of the application process.

“These communities are the ones that are going to determine whether or not the programme spreads. So, it is extremely important that whichever these two communities are, give this programme the best possible chance it has of being replicated in other communities,” she added.

The CLA Chair also underscored the importance of monitoring the communities' activities and developments, pointing out that RADA is expected to assist in this regard.

She further emphasised, however, that persons convicted of violent crimes would not be accommodated in the ADP within three years of completing their sentence.

Lightbourne said selection of the pilot communities and those approved over the long term, once the ADP gets under way fully, would entail reviewing submissions as well as visits to the locations where stakeholders have indicated an interest in having the programme instituted.

Additionally, she said that upon approval, biometric data will be collated on each farmer, who must be registered with RADA, adding that intermittent reports on community developments must also be submitted to the CLA.

Lightbourne said it is anticipated that persons involved in the ADP would graduate into the licensed programme and not remain in the former indefinitely, adding that “there will, hopefully, be an incentive for them to go forward”.

The CLA Chair said consequent on Cabinet's approval of the ADP, the Agency will notify the United Nations of the proposed undertaking, and establish a project committee comprising members of the Authority and external stakeholders.

Additionally, she said work will commence to draft the criteria underpinning the community evaluation and monitoring process, and further stakeholder consultations will be hosted. This will culminate in a joint review of the project's overall impact.

“That review is expected approximately one year from now, because it is anticipated that, by then, we would have had results from the two communities which we would be working with. Thereafter, we would present those results to Cabinet, so that they can go ahead and expand the Programme,” Lightbourne added.

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