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Increased demand for Jamaican-grown cannabis

There has been an increased demand for local cannabis in the global market space, as buyers from various countries seek to acquire the product for medicinal and research purposes.

The Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) is reporting that since the start of the year, 19 export authorisations have been issued to allow companies to ship cannabis overseas and another 21 requests are being processed.

“So, several products [are being shipped] into several jurisdictions [such as] Canada, Australia, Israel, Zimbabwe, Cayman, Germany, Switzerland, and Portugal,” Acting Chief Executive Officer of the CLA, Faith Graham, tells JIS News.

The CLA began issuing export authorisations in 2018. To date, 42 such authorisations have been granted to 10 entities trading with countries in Africa, North America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Oceania.

Ms. Graham says that some of these jurisdictions have very stringent testing requirements in terms of the quality of the cannabis.

“I believe that this is an excellent step in the development for our industry having been able to penetrate these markets,” she tells JIS News.

She notes that the industry has come a long way and credits the efforts of local stakeholders in finding ready markets for Jamaican cannabis.

“What is happening right now in the industry is that licensees have had the opportunity to go through several crop cycles (and) they are the ones who are actually seizing and finding the opportunities out there to test the waters,” Ms. Graham says.

“Cannabis is a long-term investment and what is good about it is that once we are able to penetrate these global markets with the standard of our cannabis, it means that it is paving the way for future commercial quantities being exported. So, this is the next phase of where the industry is,” she adds.

Meanwhile, the Acting CEO tells JIS News that the Dangerous Drugs (Cannabis Import and Export Licensing) Regulations are at the final stages of promulgation.

“It has gone through all the processes and the CLA’s part of the whole thing is done. So, the [regulations] were drafted, comments were received by the Attorney General’s Chambers and the next step now will be for promulgation through the Ministry of Justice,” Ms. Graham informs.

She notes that the regulations will treat with, among other things, import/export, transit, and trans-shipment. Currently, there is no restriction on the quantities of cannabis for which licensees can seek export authorisation.

While the CLA has been facilitating cannabis exports, in the absence of the regulations, Ms. Graham says that the passage of the measures “will make [the process] easier and what it will do is widen the scope of what we do.”

She tells JIS News that the focus now is on ensuring that the entity is adequately equipped to facilitate and enable exports in terms of “the resources that we require, additional human resources…the processes”.

“We have been having meetings with the international airports, Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA), Plant Quarantine Division, Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), and other entities. We are preparing joint operational procedures to ensure there is more efficiency in carrying out these export operations,” she says.

To ensure that all cannabis exported is of the highest quality, the CLA is working with several agencies to develop standards for local farmers.

The authority has also partnered strategically with the Scientific Research Council (SRC), Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), The University of the West Indies and the Mining and Geology Division for the testing of local cannabis.

“Before we can export, we need to know what we have, and that we are meeting the requirements of those jurisdictions, that are taking our cannabis,” the Acting CEO says.

Another positive sign for the growth of the sector is the removal of cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, where it was listed alongside specific deadly, addictive opioids, including heroin, recognised as having little to no therapeutic purposes.

“It (removal of cannabis from Schedule IV) legitimises the medicinal value of cannabis and I believe that this can redound to greater interest in the industry, building investor confidence and we hope we will see an uptick in research and development because we want to promote nutraceuticals, product development and so on,” Ms. Graham points out.

A release from the CLA in June indicated that the Authority had authorised the export of approximately 1,000 kilograms of cannabis flower, three kilograms of seeds, and over 40 litres of cannabis oil.

In addition, the trading figures within the closed-loop system (among licensees) were US$894,749 for financial year 2019-2020 and US$627,089.79 in 2020-2021. These figures do not include sales made by licensees to the public.

“We are now in the process of quantifying the true value of our local industry and so we will be collecting information from the different licensees, the retailers and so on, to see what their sales are like to their patients and to their customers. This is so that we can have a better view of what the true value of our local industry is,” Ms. Graham tells JIS News.


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