Small ganja farmers get break


A Jamaica Observer file photo of a section of a marijuana farm.

MINISTER of Industry Investment and Commerce Senator Aubyn Hill says the Government will be removing all fees for small-scale traditional cannabis growers over a two-year period, to help them get their footing in the medical cannabis industry.

“Right now, for the first two years, while you’re planting and trying to get some money together and grow your five plants or how many plants you want to grow, we are not going to charge you any fees for that,” he said.

He noted that as the Administration seeks to encourage the industry and making it easier for people to enter the industry, “very often that’s part of the investment the Government has to make”.

Hill, who was speaking at a press conference at Jamaica House on Thursday, said small cannabis farmers have complained of these “disincentive” fees which are impeding them in establishing themselves.

“It doesn’t make sense right now when people don’t have the cash flow to buy the basic stuff, to even hire people, that we are going to say ‘okay, pay another US$3,000’,” he said, noting that he has an issue with the fees being listed in United States dollars rather than Jamaican currency, and “we want to change that too”.

He pointed out, as well, that where restrictions such as fences measuring 10 feet are required, he suggested that this could be reduced to five.

Hill said this proposal will have to go to Cabinet for discussion and approval, “but it’s a position that I’m going to take”.

The measure will remain in place for five years. “When you come, whether you come in day one or the last day of the fifth year, you will get a two-year period over which you get the chance to build your business without these fees,” he assured.

Turning to the issue of the turnaround times for various approvals, Hill said industry players have said they want greater responsiveness from the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA).

He pointed out that while wait times have been reduced there was room for improvement.

He noted, for example, that before April 2022, conditional approval, which used to take six months, now takes two months. “I’m still asking the authority to reduce that, to find ways, you always have to find ways to improve and reduce the time that they have to wait,” he said.

He said that export authorisation before April 2022 used to take 29 calendar days, and it now takes 19, which he said is still too long. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t involve the CLA alone. You have Ministry of Agriculture, you have Ministry of Health, but I still don’t want 19 days,” he said.

“So I’ve asked the CLA to give me a kind of an [idea] of how it works, and where the bottlenecks might be and my job, Dr [Norman] Dunn’s job [state minister in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce] is to try and remove some of those bottlenecks for us, so that the people in the market can get a better response from the CLA. We are not willing to accept what exists,” he said.

At the same time, Hill said efforts will be made to ensure that the Jamaican market has all the medicinal cannabis it needs.

“Under the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which is a product of the United Nations Single Convention Treaty of 1961, we will seek to ensure that the Jamaican market has all the medicinal cannabis products that it needs and, therefore, not need to import any medicinal cannabis. We will continue, of course, to keep in line with our treaty obligations,” he stated.

“We are going to tighten the arrangements we have. One of the things we have to do is to make sure that the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (Statin) works with us to arrive at what the market size is, because that’s a very important feature of the INCB, with which we’re working to make sure we stay in line,” he added.

Government got a lashing from small growers recently after a company was given permission to import medical cannabis from Canada.


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