KINGSTON, Jamaica June 19, 2021 - As the Cannabis Industry continues its struggle to find a foot-hold within the Jamaican economy, the formalization of the industry moved a step further last weekend, with the formation of the Cannabis Industry Stakeholders Council.
President of the Ganja Growers and Producers Association Richard Crawford, in a statement said the meeting of the Ninth Cannabis Stakeholders Council approved the formation of the Council, along with the objectives and its composition.
"The meeting was convened by Richard Crawford who outlined the challenging situation and present state of the local ganja industry. A mandate was given to register the Cannabis Industry Stakeholders Council, by the 30th June 2021.
According to the statement, the objectives of the Council are:
1) To research, develop and formulate policies for the holistic development of the Jamaican Cannabis Industry to its full potential; in particular pertaining to finance and funding, research, technology, standards and quality control, cultivation, production, processing, manufacturing to include beverages, edibles, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, cosmeceuticals, international relationships and exportation.
2) To ensure that Jamaican patients can obtain quality cannabis treatment solutions at an affordable cost; therefore, advocating for the reduction and or removal of all bureaucratic and over-bearing security measures as important measures in the reduction of current costs of cannabis buds and by-products.
3) In association with the Ganja Growers and Producers Jamaica, ensure that the short and long terms economic interests of the traditional and small ganja cultivators are protected and secured, particularly in terms of their economic enablement and empowerment.
4) To develop a code of ethics and standards for those engaged in the cannabis industry, including a dispute resolution mechanism as a first option before civil litigation.
5) To bring together the stakeholders in the cannabis space to form an advisory council to the Government of Jamaica, the Cannabis Licensing Authority and other organizations with a vested interest.
7) To collaborate with other interested stakeholders, particularly the medical and health communities in developing an attractive, informative and credible public education programme highlighting the health and medicinal benefits of cannabis.
The interim composition is being drawn from representatives from a wide range of stakeholders. These include: CLA Licensees, CLA Conditional Approval Applicants, Doctors & Healthcare Workers, Herbalists and Naturopaths, and Scientific & Research Community among others.
While several countries around the world appear to be way ahead of Jamaica in capitalising on the ganja industry, the local players have become disenchanted over the various challenges affecting the industry.
Chief among those is the fact that local business operators in the cannabis industry are not able to open business bank accounts and those with existing accounts have had to close them.
As a result, they are unable to attract financing. In addition, they cannot be licensed without the requisite financing.
Chairman of the Cannabis Licensing Authority, LeVaughn Flynn said recently that more countries are moving to legalize cannabis because it has the potential to significantly enhance economies.
He noted that over the next three to five years, the global cannabis industry will be valued between US$42 and US$96 billion. Between 2018 and 2020, he said the world’s largest cannabis market, the US state of California, collected over US$1 billion in taxes from cannabis. Likewise, New York expects to rack in about US$350 million in tax revenue per year once it establishes its cannabis market.
As at April, some 80 licenses have been granted by the CLA across the cultivation, retail, transport, research and development and processing fields. Another 300 conditional licenses have also been issued; however, many of those applicants have had to freeze their applications due to financial limitations.
“The reason for persons being stuck there is tied in with the limitations in banking and financing. They can’t acquire the capital needed to build out their facility to move on to the next stage for the license to be granted to them,” said Flynn.
Flynn said banking remains the number one challenge for the global cannabis industry, but he is optimistic that legislative changes in the United States are shortly expected to change the landscape of the industry.
In April the US House of Representatives approved the Safe Banking Act to allow banks to participate in the cannabis industry. At the Federal level, the MORE (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement) Act has also been passed to remove Cannabis from the US Controlled Substances Act.
Flynn reasoned that once both Acts are signed off by President Joe Biden, local banks which have correspondent banking relations with US banks will get permission to start investing in the sector.