Reeling from the controversy surrounding the importation of 40 Lbs. of ganja into Jamaica by Jamaican company Cannaviva, Jamaica Limited, the Jamaica Cannabis Licensing Authority (CA) has seemingly left the building. That is to say their online presence has disappeared and all emails have repeatedly bounced. It is uncharacteristic for a website to go down in addition to their backend services such as their email server. Minister Aubyn Hill has been under fire recently, less for the importation, but more for the lack of local industry championing by the Government and lack of access to industry participation for small and traditional ganja farmers. Many observers reiterate Dr. Albert Lockhart, who was partially responsible for the world’s first cannabinoid medicines for treating glaucoma and asthma. In an interview in 2014 he said that Jamaica was at risk of missing the boat. “All the big countries are going to be ahead of us and we could end up importing ganja products, if we keep stalling.” Sentiments have not changed since and many are looking to the Ministry and the regulatory body to fix this.
The CLA is the regulatory body, essentially established to police the industry. It is a government agency and funded by the government through taxation and their licensing regime. They also took fire from industry stakeholders for the imports and issued statements neglecting to address the issue of a reciprocal relationship between Jamaica and Canada. Stating in a press release, they were unaware of any issue of exporting to Canada. This is a sour point due to the fact that Canada has been accused of protectionism for their over supplied legal cannabis industry. Jamaican businesses want reciprocity.
The CLA is going through some changes. They are currently without a CEO or Chairman, both having stepped down last year at the end of their contracts. Let us hope this outage is not a further reflection of the disconnect between the Jamaican government and the local cannabis industry. The development of the industry falls under the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment and is under Senator Hill’s portfolio who has scheduled meetings with Canadian officials to discuss the industry and presumably, trade opportunities. The Ganja Growers and Producers Association, Jamaica (GGPAJ) and the Jamaica Licensed Cannabis Association (JLCA) came together to issue a statement, suggesting a bi-lateral trade agreement between Canada and Jamaica for cannabis. Others have called for an outright ban on importation.
The legal landscape surrounding ganja is changing and Canada is at the forefront having legalized medical cannabis in 2001 and adult-use cannabis 2018. Jamaica does have a legal medical regime which is legally permitted under international law.
The CLA has since issues this statement on their social media: