MONTEGO BAY, St James — As the fledgling local cannabis industry positions itself to partake in the global industry, valued at US$450 billion, Culture Minister Olivia "Babsy" Grange is advocating that as reparation, members of the Rastafarian community, "who suffered in the earliest days of the cultivation and distribution" of the herb, be also guaranteed participation in the commercial activities.
"My ministry, the Ministry of Culture, is the focal point for Rastafari, and we are not satisfied that the Rastafari community is benefiting from all of this. And so, this is the substance of reparations. They suffered for it. Whatever we do, we must repair the damage by making sure they also benefit from the fruits of their labour," Grange argued.
"So it is about ensuring that those who suffered for the maintenance of an idea, ensuring that they must benefit from the conversion of that idea into a thriving industry."
Speaking at CanEx 2022 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre here on Friday, the culture minister also expressed disappointment that the Ministry of Culture was left out of the loop when the amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act was being designed.
"I think that I am entitled to speak, I am entitled to be at the table. But you know what has happened? When the legislation was being crafted and when it was being passed, it listed other ministries — Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of National Security — but you know what ministry it did not list? Ministry of Culture. So, we are 'cotching' at the table. We're not officially at the table," she emphasised.
But she expressed delight that, "Cabinet made a decision that the legislation must be amended to ensure that the minister of culture is at the table.
"I'm really so happy to tell that it was only Monday last that that decision was reinforced, and I know it will happen soon. So we led and continue to lead the charge and advocating for the recognition of the medicinal and recreational value in cannabis. I want us to work together to create this global cannabis industry," the culture minister said.
"Ultimately it is about the re-enfranchisement of our people. So it is my hope that we go even further than decriminalisation and create legislation that will enhance its cultivation, its production, processing, distribution, including the creation of byproducts as part of our Government's policy to promote sustainable prosperity for all."
Grange was encouraged by the attendance at CanEx 2022.
"I am heartened to see so many gathered here at the CanEx Jamaica Business Conference and Expo. Your presence means that you believe in the product's capacity to change lives and livelihoods. I ask that you commit to the cultural cannabis which Rastafari sees for its sacramental value and its high-earning potential," she noted.
Following a two-year hiatus as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, CanEx Jamaica Business Conference and Expo celebrated its fifth staging at the Montego Bay Convention Centre. The event ran from September 15 to 17.
The CanEx event is an arena for the birth of new ideas and discoveries, which has always been the life of the CanEx conference, and this year's conference featured world-class speakers and panelists providing insights into the global direction of the industry, practical opportunities for investments, and medical advances.
Among this year's speakers was Beau Whitney, founder and chief economist of Whitney Economics, a global leader in cannabis and hemp business consulting and economic research, and who also serves as senior economist for NCIA. Serving an international clientele, Beau is considered one of the leading cannabis economists in the US and globally.
Over the years CanEx has featured some of the most influential individuals in the global legal cannabis industry, including Bruce Linton, Cam Battley, Steve DeAngelo and Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico.
President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Oral Heaven commended Douglas Gordon, founder of CanEx, for successfully staging the event once again this year.
"It is not easy to bring together top cannabis industry experts from across the globe to share in the discussions on developing the international platform that connects the major players in this industry," Heaven said.