Jamaica, which has been famous for its ganja for decades, has been among the slowest to move into the production and sale of legal recreational and medical ganja.
Since 2015, the island’s cannabis licensing authority, which is a government agency, has struggled to find a way to include the island’s small farmers in the growing industry. Licenses for legal ganja cultivation and transportation are available, but for years, farmers on the island have complained that the fees are too high.
During a sitting of parliament, the People’s National Party’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade, Lisa Hanna, added her voice to the conversation, lashing out at the cannabis authority for its exuberant fees.
“Today, no small farmer with historical know-how will ever meet the standards required for production. The licensing authority is approaching it as if every applicant wants to be an exporter. This established bureaucracy is locking out our small farmers,” she said.
Hanna also pointed out that it is unfair that the farmers who made the crop famous cannot currently afford the licensing fees.
“The same ones who created the product so many years ago and suffered at the hands of the police for something which is now a global sensation and is legal in several countries have no way of getting a slice of the pie. If those small farmers never go up in the hills for three/four months and hide, you wouldn’t know ’bout Jamaican good ganja,” she said.
Over time, many farmers have turned away from cultivating the famous crop. This coupled with a high demand led to a nationwide ganja shortage in February.
The cannabis authority — which has authorized 29 cultivators and issued 73 licenses for transportation, retail, processing and other activities — later said that there was no shortage of marijuana in the regulated industry. But farmers and activists say weed sold via legal dispensaries known as herb houses is out of reach for many given that it still costs five to 10 times more than pot on the street.
Hanna’s solution for the small farmers involves the government establishing a national ganja lab, where they can manufacture and process ganja products.
“The government must establish and fund a facility in partnership with one of our universities to allow small farmers to manufacture and process their raw weed, for a fee, into products that the market demands,” she said.
“This must be a national lab, so when the Israelites or Americans hear about it, they know that they can come to the Jamaican national ganja lab. This lab must also have the responsibility of promoting Jamaican ganja- the best in the world,” she added.
Lisa Hanna has warned the government that if they do not act quickly to regulate the industry, Jamaica’s reputation for world-famous cannabis could disappear.