The month of August saw significant growth and developments in the local cannabis industry. Apallon Formularies opened its doors as part of the current move to capture the Negril market. SENSI Medical Cannabis House, now the third dispensary/ herb house in Kingston, opened its doors on August 14th. The Government Minister presently driving the cannabis industry initiatives, the Honourable Audley Shaw, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, was in attendance. Both locations identified for the Alternative Development Programme (ADP) are fruitfully moving forward. Additionally, Minister Shaw recently announced that legislation allowing for the export of local ganja plant, ganja extracts and ganja products. Yes, it is happening and it’s time to pay attention.
Minister Shaw says, “I want us to start exporting extracted oil and buds from Jamaica to external markets. Canada wants it, Australia is crying out for it and Germany. All over the world, they want the Jamaican brand,” This is what we all want and indeed this is what the world wants to see coming from Jamaica. Jamaica does have brand in this industry and we need to embrace this fact and exploit it to the fullest.
Ganjactivist.com recently conducted an (unofficial) poll of visiting tourists throughout the North Coast and Kingston. The question was simply; “From the time you stepped foot outside of the airport, how long did it take before you got some ganja?” 90% responded, “in under 30 minutes”. This is a clear indication of what attracts people to Jamaica. The sand and the sea aside, its Jamaica’s culture and ganja consumption is a significant part of that culture.
The American Factor
The significant limiting factor for Jamaica, as stated by Shaw, is the US banking system. Jamaica’s major banks, such and the National Commercial Bank (NCB) have US banks as their international intermediary for transactions in non-Jamaican currency and to facilitate access to US dollars for local traders. The local banks fear de-risking by their US partners. That is for US banks to essentially stop doing businesses with any entity that is making money off of illicit activity. Ganja is still illegal at the federal level in the United States, despite its legality in some US jurisdictions. Hence, if a correspondent bank we’re to decide to stop doing business with NCB, most if not all international transactions would cease, cease or become incredibly difficult.
“The local banks are fearful of funding the growth of the medical cannabis industry for fear of being de-risked by their international counterparts in the US,” stated Shaw. “All of our local commercial banks are obliged right now to go through the New York system as it relates to the movement of money internationally.”
Building Bridges, Not Walls.
There are hurdles to overcome, but the local market is opening up and the international market seems well within reach. As 2019 rounds the bend we’ll have CanEx Jamaica – Business Conference & Expo. The largest such event for the cannabis industry in the Caribbean and Latin America. The event founder, Doulas Gordon recently a press release tating, “This year we anticipate 3000+ attendees from over 30 countries. This high-profile event will feature advanced content on the regulatory, legal, investment and global medicinal cannabis landscape from experts from over 30 countries. This year we anticipate 80+ speakers from various sectors of the cannabis industry representing industry expertise from across the globe”.
Bruce Linton, the founder of Canopy Growth Corporation in Canada, will be a Keynote Speaker, and the team boasts a stellar line-up of key-note speakers from various spheres of the industry. Including ,Vincente Fox (former President of Mexico), Steve DeAngelo (founder Harborside, Steep Hill and The ArcView Group) and Cam Battley (Chief Corporate Officer Aurora Cannabis Inc.) Perhaps this is an indication of how Zimmer and Company, the parent company of the Canex conference, see the future of Jamaica’s cannabis industry. Or at least the direction they would like to see it go.
Stop the Harassment!
One the ground, things are a bit different. Farmers are still being harassed by the police, despite calls from the Minister for traditional ganja farmers to come out of the “bushes” and form cooperatives. This is in anticipation of the successful implementation of the Alternative Development Programme (ADP), which is also receiving significant guidance and support from Courtney Betty, CEO and founder of Timeless Herbal Care, the first company to successfully export ganja oils produced in Jamaica to Canada for testing. Transhipment agreements between Canada and Jamaica, currently only allow for export for testing purposes. This is also what Minister Shaw wants to address.
With the involvement of RADA, the Ministry and the Westmorland Hemp and Ganja Farmers Association (WAGFA), the Westmorland project should be under way, while Accompong should be seeing their first harvest in a matter of weeks. The one perturbing element is the continued harassing of traditional ganja farmers. With government officials asking farmers to form cooperatives and come out of the shadows, they still contend with harassment from the police. This is counterintuitive and needs to be addressed.
Jamaica is once again poised for global greatness. The whole society needs to start acting accordingly. I call on you Minister Shaw, to address the issue of harassment. We all have to work together on this one.