The Business Year

Hyacinth Lightbourne

JAMAICA - Health & Education

A World to Conquer

Chairman, Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA)


Hyacinth Lightbourne has been chairman of the Cannabis Licensing Authority since 2016. She is an attorney-at-law and consultant at the firm of DunnCox. She was called to the Florida Bar in 2000 and the Jamaican Bar in 2006. She practiced in Florida for five years as an assistant state attorney before joining DunnCox in 2006. She became a partner of the firm in 2009 and a consultant in 2014. She specializes in commercial litigation matters, defamation, personal injury, and intellectual property litigation.

The regulator is fully aware of the challenges, and even more so of the opportunities, that lie dormant in the country's budding cannabis industry.

How do you assess Jamaica’s vision to become an international leader in medical cannabis?

We have to ensure that we adhere to international standards and conventions in producing a quality medical product. At the root, we need a product that is safe and reliable and can stand up to quality testing, as is the case in any other part of the world. We also have to adhere to our international obligations, because there are repercussions for Jamaica if we do not. To do this, we ensure that our policies and regulations keep us within the confines of what we are lawfully allowed to do. Adhering to these rules earns us the respect of the international community and reassures them that we are not operating a free-for-all, but in a measured way, taking into consideration all the necessary standards and rules around the world.

How is CLA committed to increasing the industry’s contribution to GDP?

Our driving force is ensuring that we have policies, regulations, and processes that adhere to international standards. If we do that, then the contribution to GDP will automatically flow. There has been an enormous amount of interest in the sector. Currently, we have 490 licenses being processed, 169 conditional licenses granted, and 24 final licenses that have been issued. When processing that amount of interest in a sector, our rules require that all participants in the space pass what is called “Fit and Proper,” which means the individual passes the necessary scrutiny in order to be able to engage in said space. The contribution to GDP will come by virtue of having this much interest in it. Our focus, however, has to be on ensuring that those who enter the space have the ability to adhere to the standards.

What is the difference in legal approaches to pharmaceutical and recreational cannabis?

The 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs specifically prohibits recreational use, and Jamaica is a signatory of that treaty. Recreational cannabis is not legal in the country, and the CLA has nothing to do with recreational cannabis. We deal exclusively with the scientific, medical, and therapeutic use of cannabis.

How does CLA enable research and innovation in the sector?

We have a license that deals specifically with Research and Development (R&D), which has two subcategories: analytical and experimental. There are many people who have applied for such licenses, and three R&D licenses have been granted to date. For anyone else who wishes to get into the sector, we listen to their concerns and determine if we can accommodate them.

What countries can help Jamaica develop its sector?

We have been visiting various markets, including various states in the US and Canada, to look at what they have done. We can learn something from every market, even though not everything can be applied. Some countries have taken measures, which we can replicate; there is no use in reinventing the wheel. Canada, in terms of its medicinal space, operates extremely well, and Health Canada is an excellent organization when it comes to the administration of cannabis. In the future, there should be more research with Israel, whose excellence is renowned. I have had many discussions with researchers there who said Jamaica is sitting on a gold mine of information as Jamaica has people who have been using this plant medicinally for centuries

What is your overview of the development of the sector at this point?

I am extremely positive about it. There is a great deal of interest, and the continuous influx of applications demonstrates that the Jamaican industry is poised to continue growing and developing. The amount of FDI also shows that there is a tremendous opportunity for the nation. We need to ensure that whoever gets through the door does not negatively affect the market for everyone else. Otherwise, our role is to listen to our stakeholders and see what needs to be done to facilitate the industry from a policy and regulatory perspective.



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