Cabinet has given approval for the 16-member Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA), which the Government has promised will be set up to regulate the hemp and medicinal ganja industry in Jamaica.
Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding, who made the disclosure in an interview with the Jamaica Observer yesterday, said members are to be formally notified, and that the industry, investment and commerce; and science, technology and mining ministries were making arrangements for their accommodation.
“At this point, we want them to start the ball rolling [and] once they are notified a meeting should be held,” Golding said.
The authority is one of the provisions of the recently enacted Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act, 2015 ‘Ganja Bill’, which decriminalises marijuana for medicinal, religious, and private/personal use. The CLA will have powers to make regulations for the procedures and criteria for applying for licences and permits as well as other authorisations for cultivation, processing, distribution, sale and other handling of ganja for medicinal, scientific and therapeutic purposes.
The members were selected by ministers across eight ministries, in addition to representatives from the Attorney General’s Chambers; academia; and civil society groups, inclusive of faith-based organisations.
In the meantime, the justice minister said small farmers should rest assured that they will be part of the process, as the Government fully intends for the rules regulating the sector to enable and allow participation by small farmers.
“It is expected that that intent will be borne in mind. I expect it will take a few months to develop that framework, and we are engaging a consultant to assist them (the CLA),” Golding said.
According to Golding, Jamaica is well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that exist for medical marijuana, and the country has the research capacity to develop new therapies. “We have the interest from our small farmers and business interests — locally and overseas; there is [also] the possibility of export of medicinal products made from ganja to those countries that will allow the importation of those products,” he pointed out.
The minister said while he was not claiming that the industry is a silver bullet for the country’s ills, he expects that Jamaica will, within a decade, “have a fairly substantial industry around”.
With the enactment of the Ganja Bill just under two weeks old, the justice minister said he has not yet had any reports of specific incidents of conflict between the police and citizens.
“I do expect that over time there will be bumps in the road, because it is a major transition for the force to understand the new legislation and to adjust their approach accordingly,” he said, noting that training is to be developed for the police.
“They have the fact sheet, but we are also looking at possibly producing a documentary as a training and sensitisation tool for the force,” Golding added.
Meanwhile, as many Jamaicans look to cash in on the opportunities presented by the new legislation, the Government has so far issued the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of Technology, Jamaica licences to grow marijuana for research purposes.
Science and Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell told the Observer a few days after the symbolic planting of a ganja plant at the UWI campus that the College of Agriculture, Science and Education has “expressed an interest”, and that he is awaiting that application.
Additionally, Paulwell said there were some companies that wish to get into the commercial business, but they had taken Government’s advice to look at research first.
The changes to the law make possession of two ounces or less of marijuana a non-arrestable, ticketable offence with no criminal record.
The Bill, however, prohibits the smoking of ganja in public places but provides for the granting of licences, permits and other authorisations to enable the establishment of a regulated industry for ganja for medical, scientific, and therapeutic uses.