Jamaica will this year join a virtual tidal wave of countries across the globe in decriminalizing ganja, the forerunner to the establishment of a medicinal marijuana industry estimated to be worth billions of dollars.
The undertaking was given to the Cannabis Commercial and Medicinal Research Task force by Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives Phillip Paulwell, according to one of the main task force leaders, Delano Seiveright.
In a press statement yesterday, Seiveright said Paulwell, who is also the minister of science, technology, energy and mining, told members of the task force at a meeting last Thursday that “ganja will be decriminalized in Jamaica this year and emphasized that Jamaica cannot be allowed to be left behind on the issue.”
“He also reiterated the multiple economic, social and cultural benefits that Jamaica stands to gain if the laws are adjusted sooner, rather than later,” Seiveright said.
He said officials at the meeting, held at the PCJ Auditorium in Kingston, had agreed to the formal launch of the Future Ganja Growers Association next month to spearhead the establishment of a local ganja industry, which advocates believe will pump billions of dollars into the Jamaican economy.
If Paulwell’s promise becomes reality — a strong possibility because of bipartisan support in the Parliament — Jamaica could be the first English-speaking Caribbean country to decriminalize ganja and usher in a new era, allowing Jamaicans to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes under State regulation.
Legalization or decriminalization of the weed has been sweeping the globe, led by the United States where Colorado, followed by Washington state, has demonstrated the earning power of marijuana. America’s tax take has already been put at an estimated US$100 million a year.
Jamaica’s Cannabis Commercial and Medicinal Research Task force comprises the Ganja Law Reform Coalition, the National Alliance for the Legalization of Ganja and several members of civil society. The group is chaired by University of the West Indies, Mona Principal Professor Archibald McDonald. Other leading Ganja Law Reform advocates sitting on the task force include Paul Chang and Paul Burke.
The task force also reiterated that a compulsory condition of involvement in the growers’ association was agreement by members not to take any part, directly or indirectly, in the growing or cultivation of ganja until there is a legal and regulated framework in place.
The association, according to the press statement, would “represent the best interests of the various stakeholders, giving primacy of place to the traditional ganja cultivator for a specified period”.
It would lobby the Jamaican government for the establishment of “a properly regulated cannabis industry in all aspects, cultivation, agro-processing, medicinal and its many and varied byproducts”; and promote control, education and taxation “as important planks of a regulated cannabis industry.”