Speaking at the Swept Away Resort in Negril on Saturday, the final day of a Beckley Foundation two-day conference on Jamaica’s Cannabis Reforms, the Minister said while many countries have joined the process towards establishing a legal cannabis industry, Jamaica with its brand recognition already has a head start.
“Each country will undoubtedly carve out its own competitive marketing angle, but none have a greater opportunity than we here in Jamaica to leverage the country brand association with marijuana,” he said.
He added that the cannabis industry, previously seen as a negative, has generated much interest and holds a lot of potential to aid Jamaica’s growth.
The Minister pointed out that the global competition in the legalised and regulated marijuana industry is already heating up, especially in some of Jamaica’s main trading partners, including some areas of the United States of America, sections of Canada, and the Netherlands, which will present new trading opportunities.
He noted that one of the most fundamental moves in this regard was made by the new Canadian government, which has announced that it will soon be legalising the cultivation, sale and recreational use of cannabis.
“The implications are already sending ripples across the world. Indeed, once the cannabis industry fully develops, there exists a clear opportunity for trade in cannabis given Jamaica’s strong brand and long-standing trade partnership with Canada,” the Minister said.
Mr. Hylton said the responsible development of the cannabis industry here in Jamaica is even more important now, as more governments across the world are fully recognising the value of the sector.
Congratulating the organisers of the conference, the Minister said it presented a very good opportunity for discussions to take place on the ongoing work towards establishing a legal cannabis industry.
“We are now witnessing the transformation of the once obscured and mainly underground marijuana industry, which has been steadily gaining increased traction globally,” he noted.
The conference presenters and participants looked at developments in Jamaica and a number of countries in the regulation and legalisation of the cannabis industry, and the opportunities which will be presented for stakeholders at all levels in the sector.
IUn the meantime, Minister Hylton, says the country must get the framework for a regulated and legalized cannabis industry right the first time. He emphasized that Jamaica is left with no choice but to ensure that every aspect of legally participating in the regulated sector, is done correctly.
“The Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) has deliberately remained sequestered as they deliberate with key stakeholders on the tenets of the regulations that will guide the industry. They understand, as I do, the importance of developing a sustainable industry that takes into consideration the best practices, while ensuring that it will thrive within the context of Jamaican socio-economic realities,” the Minister said.
The Minister said a legalized and regulated cannabis industry in Jamaica will only be successful if best practice methods and approaches are applied.
“There are four hallmarks that we must achieve, in order that the policies that we implement are sustainable and grounded in global best practice. These are: a standards led quality infrastructure; the balance between adopting and adapting to best practices; ensuring optimal economic impact; and intellectual property rights protection,” he informed.
Mr. Hylton told the conference that the Bureau of Standards Jamaica has been charged with the task of developing a standard-led and market driven quality infrastructure, to ensure that industry standards are developed, disseminated and enforced.
“These are not mere standards based on what we think we can manage to implement. These are standards that are being demanded by the marketplace and by which all stakeholders will be held accountable, not just by the Bureau, but by the international consumers and enforcement agencies, both locally and overseas,” he emphasized.
“The standards must be developed, which involves understanding global expectations and requirements; the standards must be understood by the stakeholders that will be governed by them; and these standards, once established, must be enforced,” the Minister said.
Mr. Hylton pointed out that the Bureau will be charged with ensuring that these standards are clearly understood by all the key players across the island.