Stakeholder defends CLA in wake of damning Forbes article

MONTEGO BAY, St James — At least one key player in the lucrative cannabis industry has come out in strong defence of the Jamaica Government and the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA), which have recently been blamed for dragging their feet on export licensing, resulting in companies fleeing the island.

A recent article in Forbes Magazine cited frustration, due to “lack of action” on the part of the CLA and the Jamaica Government as well as “stalled governmental decisions on export licences” as reasons for “Aphria, Aurora and other big Ag cannabis companies pulling out of Jamaica”.

But, Alexandra Chong, CEO and co-founder of Jacana, a medical cannabis company, does not support that view, instead citing that the CLA has proven to be a very supportive regulator.

Founded in 2017, Jacana is a pioneering medical cannabis company. Earlier this year, the company valued its investment in Jamaica at roughly US$15 million.

“In our opinion, the Jamaican CLA is a highly supportive regulator for the growth of the cannabis industry. We applaud its demonstrated ability to find solutions to bottlenecks and other obstacles that have presented themselves. That has certainly been Jacana’s experience as we continue to move closer towards our first export to the EU. We categorically reject claims that the Jamaican Government and CLA regulators are delaying exports,” Chong said.

And, speaking during the annual CanEx Jamaica Business Conference and Expo, a business-to-business conference in Montego Bay last year, Bruce Linton, Canadian business tycoon and former CEO of Canadian multi-billion-dollar giant, Canopy, the world’s largest publicly traded cannabis company by market value, rated the CLA among the two best cannabis regulatory systems in the world.

“I think the regulatory framework I see in Jamaica is in the top two in the world. Straight up!” Linton remarked at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.

Linton added: “If you want to win against the illicit market you have to have branding; you have to have control so you don’t have unlicensed brands. So I am very impressed and frankly, CLA is pretty successful.”

In the meantime, in a release, the CLA defended itself.

“The CLA is aware of a May 30, 2020 Forbes article circulating titled ‘Aphria, Aurora and other big Ag Cannabis Companies Pull Out Of Jamaica’. The authority wishes to take this opportunity to clarify some matters and inaccuracies mentioned in the article, specifically those referring to the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA).

“While the authority cannot speak to the internal decisions of a licensee, licence holders are not hindered in their ability to export product from Jamaica due to the non-passage of import/export legislation,” stated the news release from the CLA.

“For clarity, the Government of Jamaica continues to work on the said regulations to ensure that the same are comprehensive and comply with all requirements of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol and adequately addresses the needs of the industry, primarily the licensees.

“In the absence of these regulations, the authority developed interim import/export protocols in 2018 and said protocols are published on the official CLA website. Further, the CLA has considered and assisted all requests from its licensees in order to facilitate the export of their product.”

The CLA, an agency of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, was established in 2015 under the Dangerous Drug Amendment Act, (DDA) with a specific role to establish and regulate Jamaica’s legal ganja and hemp.

Since November 2018, the CLA has processed export requests and granted 15 export authorisations to licensees in accordance with the established interim measures for export. To date, all licencees who have sought export authorisations have received the same from the CLA.

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