Shaw denies companies leaving Ja due to cannabis regulation lag

MINISTER of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw has denied claims that cannabis companies are leaving Jamaica as a result of the country’s failure to implement import/export regulations.

Shaw told the House of Representatives last week Wednesday that recent media reports that the companies are angry with the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) for failing to implement the necessary regulations are not true.

“Let me state categorically that this is not so,” he told the House of Representatives during its annual Sectoral Debate.

Shaw was responding to an article carried by Forbes magazine in May, that said the lack of positive action on the part of the Jamaican Government and the CLA has led to cannabis stakeholders exiting Jamaica, because of the obstacles in the granting of licences for the production and export of cannabis.

According to the minister, the Government continues to support new and emerging industries, such as bamboo, castor bean, cotton, and cannabis, to encourage the production and utilisation of these products as it continues to diversify the manufacturing sector. He said that, in this context, the cannabis industry remains a critical subsector.

“As at May 31, 2020, the Cannabis Licensing Authority received 705 applications for licences. To date, 63 licences have been issued, 23 are at the granted stage, and 270 applicants are also conditionally approved and are now building out their facilities to meet the requirements for the granting stage of the process,” he noted.

“Under the two pilot projects for the cultivation of ganja for medical use in Accompong, St Elizabeth, and Orange Hill in Westmoreland, the Cannabis Licensing Authority continues to provide regulatory oversight to ensure compliance with the legislations,” he stated.

Shaw said that, since November 2018, licence holders have had the opportunity to export cannabis inflorescence/buds and extracts from Jamaica to jurisdictions across the world. He also pointed out that this has been facilitated by the CLA, through the establishment of interim measures for the export and import of cannabis, which are published on the authority’s official website.

To date, the CLA has granted 15 export authorisations, resulting in exports to several countries, including Canada, Australia and the Cayman Islands.

“These exports have been for various purposes, including research, medical purposes, cultivation, and manufacturing of medical products. Therefore, with further support, the medical cannabis industry will continue moving forward,” Shaw added.

In a release on the issue following the Forbes story in May, the CLA responded, noting that it had conducted broad consultations with its stakeholders on the Dangerous Drugs (Cannabis Import and Export Licensing) Regulations, 2020, which it has been reviewing as well as providing feedback on drafts of the regulations.

The CLA said that, recently, the third draft of the regulations was reviewed and comments and requests for further changes provided to Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF), which has since submitted the finalised draft regulations to the Ministry of Justice.

In addition, minister of state in the ministry, Floyd Green, said then that whilst the CLA awaited the promulgation of these regulations, it has put in place protocols to facilitate both the import and export of cannabis by its licensees.

He said that these protocols, the ‘Interim Measures — Importation of Cannabis’ and the ‘Interim Measures — Export of Cannabis’, can be found on the CLA’s website.

Additionally, he said that MICAF has been working closely with the Ministry of Justice on the promulgation of the regulations.

For over a year, as part of efforts to preserve the business interests of licensees, the CLA has facilitated exports using these protocols. Over this period, several licensees have taken advantage of the interim measures and have exported cannabis and its extract (oil) to countries across the world, he said.

Chief executive officer of the CLA, Lincoln Allen, said that the authority stands ready to facilitate the export of cannabis and its extracts by its licensees, as long as it is satisfied that the licensee has met all the requirements of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, as amended by the 1972 protocol.

He added, that upon the promulgation of these regulations, the CLA will continue to facilitate the import and export of cannabis by its licensees.

The CLA, which was created under the Dangerous Drugs Act, has powers to make and oversee the implementation of regulations for licences, permits, and other forms of authorisation for the cultivation, processing, distribution, sale, and transportation of ganja, for medicinal, scientific, and therapeutic purposes.

The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) is aimed at combating drug abuse by coordinated international action. There are two forms of intervention and control that work together. First, it seeks to limit the possession, use, trade in, distribution, import, export, manufacture, and production of drugs exclusively for medical and scientific purposes. Second, it combats drug trafficking through international cooperation to deter and discourage drug traffickers.

About Jamaica’s UN Drug Treaty obligations, the CLA says that parties to the 1961 Convention undertake to limit the production, manufacture, export, import, distribution, and stocks of, trade in, and use and possession of the controlled drugs.

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