Weed plea
St Mary farmer urges Government to remove red tape from ganja industry and ban importation
Ganja being grown on a Jamaican farm

Still upset over the decision to allow the importation of ganja from Canada, a farmer in St Mary is bashing the Government for what he claim is too much bureaucracy in the sector.

"We don't need any licence to plant the weed," herbalist Rasta Wilson told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.

Wilson, who once worked in the Government service, said since leaving that nine-to-five job and moving into ganja farming he is enjoying the pleasure of working in nature where he assists in educating and providing advice to people who wish to be healed the natural way.

"The Government should be the one paying us small ganja farmers to plant the weed. We have been persecuted and oppressed by the Government for too long," added Wilson.

Rasta Wilson during a recent interview with the Jamaica Observer (Photo: Ingrid Henry)

He said that Prime Minister Andrew Holness should apologise to the many ganja farmers who have been prosecuted over the years.

"Just as how he did for Coral Gardens, he needs to do so to the small ganja farmers," said Wilson, as he took a puff of his 'ganja spliff' under an almond tree in Robin's Bay, St Mary,

In 2017 Holness issued an apology for what has come to be referred to as the Coral Gardens incident of 1963.

Violence flared up in Coral Gardens, St James leading to the death of civilians and police, significant personal injuries and destruction of property. The local Rastafarian community has harboured feelings of bitterness and resentment over the years since that incident.

HOLNESS...I agree with everyone who is upset about the importation of ganja from Canada

"Today, without equivocation, we apologise for what occurred in Coral Gardens. We express our regret and sorrow for this chapter in our national life that was characterised by brutality, injustice and repression, which was wrong and should never be repeated," said Holness.

"Whilst I know that this cannot erase the brutality, oppression and injustice which was meted out during that tragedy, I am comforted by the willingness of the members of the Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolent Society to keep the dialogue going.

"I am happy to have finally reached the point where we can discuss concrete and tangible actions which can ease some of the heavy burden that survivors and the community have faced," Holness said in his apology.

For Wilson, anything less than a similar fulsome apology will not be enough for small ganja farmers who have been persecuted and prosecuted over the years.

According to Wilson, despite freeing up the local ganja sector in 2015, the Government has not made provisions for people like him to plant, use and sell the weed unless they get a licence.

"Look at the big ganja farm in Nutsfield, [St Mary]. The man put in all the necessary infrastructure to plant, and export weed to Canada but him can't do that and ganja from Canada coming in. That is a height of foolishness," declared Wilson as he argued that "ganja is a green gold for Jamaica but there were too many red tape in it".

During his contribution to the 2023/24 Budget Debate last Thursday, Holness joined scores of Jamaicans voicing displeasure at the decision to allow the importation of ganja from Canada.

According to Holness, he has instructed Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Aubyn Hill to fix it.

"I told him and he will tell you what I said, I agree with everyone who is upset about the importation of ganja from Canada. Before it was popular, we were in the struggle. I said to the minister, ensure that situation is corrected," Holness told the House of Representatives.

During a recent media briefing, in the wake of public outcry over the importation of ganja from Canada, Hill announced that the Government will be working to develop a policy that will better serve the local cannabis industry.

Payers in the ganja industry have been particularly upset that Canada, a country that does not allow Jamaican cannabis exports into its market, could be granted permission to export to Jamaica. Hill argued that the company, Cannaviva Jamaica Limited, applied for and was granted the necessary permits by the Cannabis Licensing Authority Board.

According to Hill, the only import authorisation that has been utilised by Cannaviva is for a strain of cannabis that is not in Jamaica called tranquil elephantiser.

"We don't have that here and they brought in 44 pounds of this particular strain that they use in five of their branches, so each branch would come out at less than nine pounds.

"They requested other licences, but one expired and one was never approved," said Hill.

BY INGRID HENRY Observer writer editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

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