Chairman, Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA)
HYACINTH LIGHTBOURNE As of October 2017, we had 250 applications. Various arms of the government assist with an application in terms of the due diligence exercise. Once that form of due diligence is completed, we are able to issue a conditional license. After that process is complete, we inspect to ensure that the infrastructure meets the regulations. At that point in time, a final license can then be granted. We require a closed-looped system where everyone in the process of selling has to be a licensed entity. Another requirement of the 1961 Convention is that the agency has to take custody of the raw product. We do not want to get involved in the business arrangements of a cultivator and a processor so we adhere to this requirement by being present for the transaction. In doing so, we provide a means for legally cultivated ganja to be purchased by a licensee. This ensures that we are not violating international treaties, or allowing legally grown ganja to enter the illicit market.
DOUGLAS GORDON The industry is on the right path. Considering the hurdles the industry has had to overcome, the speed could have been faster. When exploring an opportunity with a great deal of perceptions that may not be positive, it does make people conservative in terms of how to move forward. When there are looming threats overhead regarding what can and cannot be done, it does make people triple and quadruple check facts for a fourth, fifth, or sixth opinion. That has played a role in some of the relatively slow progress in some areas such as regulation and the legal frameworks. On top of this, there is a huge social component. We must ensure that the individuals who have been so influential culturally, religiously, and musically and have really made the industry and kept the association alive by showing that the use of cannabis can be positive for people do not get left behind because many people in suits have showed up to do business.
HL Although we have been approached by certain governments and individual companies, the legislation that provides for ease of import and export is currently in the drafting stage. For the purposes of import and export, the CLA has jurisdiction over the raw product whereas the Ministry of Health governs preparations and can currently review applications for this on a case-by-case basis. It is, however, necessary for us to monitor that whomever is granted an export license actually has a local license to produce what it is they say they are exporting. Because the industry in the infancy stage, we have tried to facilitate what we can and as much as we can. Ultimately, what the world needs in regard to this plant is research. One cannot deny its efficacy when it comes to seizures, especially with children, as well as cancer patients and pain management. The first priority is ensuring that what someone is getting is a solution for their illness. The recreational market is a completely different space as Jamaica’s industry is strictly for medicinal purposes. I do not envision Jamaica legalizing cannabis recreationally. One of our primary goals is to ensure the safety of the product that reaches the market.
DG There is great fascination with the Jamaican market, especially its legacy. Jamaica’s relationship with the cannabis industry goes back over 50 years. The music and culture have created an association with cannabis from a recreational perspective; from that has come people who have gone one step further to do research and identify and understand the medicinal benefits. There is a lot more focus and emphasis on medicinal cannabis as a treatment for a variety of different ailments and promoting a general sense of wellness, which is one of the reasons this industry has truly come alive. From an investment perspective, Jamaica is a small place in the global landscape but an important place in the cannabis industry. Companies, as much as they may see huge commercial benefits in larger economies, may look to Jamaica in terms of differentiation and producing a high-quality product that competes on a global scale. From a branding perspective, Jamaica is incredibly significant. The medical cannabis industry is estimated to be valued between USD20 and 25 billion. For recreational usage, the market could be as much as USD250-400 billion. The reality is, we are ultimately going to get to where recreational use is dominating the conversation.
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