My main mission in the Caribbean is to increase local knowledge regarding organically derived cannabis preparations and cannabinoid products. This approach is essential in order to build a sustainable industry that involves and employs local people, with the right strategy individuals can be empowered so they can produce cannabinoid products to the highest standards, both for the international and domestic markets.
In a bold move in 2015, the
Government of Jamaica decriminalised cannabis and announced their intention to
create a legal framework for the production and supply of cannabis. Jeff has
had many meetings with Jamaican Government Ministers and officials and he is
currently working on a number of exciting projects in the Caribbean.
It was a pleasure to provide the funding for the official formation of the Jamaican Cannabis College.
by Jeff Ditchfield
Jamaica is the largest producer of cannabis in the Caribbean, the industry provides jobs for tens of thousands and is a direct source of income for many families and their communities.
Due to cannabis prohibition farmers of ganja have historically had to cultivate in remote areas away from the authorities. Subsequently cannabis cultivation has been criticised for causing environmental damage in Jamaica, particularly the problem of deforestation by ganja farmers which greatly increases the risk of landslides, flooding and associated environmental damage. The use of inorganic fertilisers and chemical pesticides used by some farmers can also cause additional environmental damage by contaminating water sources.
In my opinion it should be a priority
for the authorities to engage with the small ganja farmers to explain the
advantages (to them) of becoming legitimate and operating under the new
licencing regime. However, one of the legacies of prohibition is that many of
the ganja farmers who have previously cultivated cannabis illegally (in some
cases for generations) are very distrustful of the ‘authorities’. Small scale
farmers will only embrace the new regulatory system when the advantages of
registration are explained to them, however this will only happen if they can
be engaged with in the first instance.
During my time in Jamaica I have met many people involved in the ganja industry and it is apparent that some commercially minded individuals are investing significant amounts in infrastructure so they can capitalise on the upcoming legal market. Unless the small independent ganja farmer engages with the newly emerging market there is a great danger that they are going to be ‘left behind’.
Generally, in Jamaica (and not just here) there is little understanding of cannabis potency, cannabinoid profiles and how these affect recreational and therapeutic use. This is not really surprising, as cannabinoid testing in particular is a new industry in itself and currently difficult to access in Jamaica.
It is important to note that Jamaica has key advantages in the emerging cannabis industry, the previous Jamaican Government (and the current one) have been pioneering in the area of drug law reform and in my opinion the Jamaican people should be the main beneficiaries of these bold initiatives.
As a nation of people with a passion and love for the ganja plant, with an eagerness to learn and a progressive Government, Jamaicans are in a perfect and enviable position from which to transition to a pioneering role in the evolving medicinal and recreational cannabis industry at an international level.
With the right strategy
Jamaica can become a centre of cannabis excellence. Jamaican brands and
products can be developed which will have both local and international appeal.
Traditionally, cannabis tourism has in the main been limited to The Netherlands and the coffeeshops of Amsterdam, however, one of the results of the US State of Colorado legalising cannabis in 2012 has been a significant increase in the numbers of people visiting the State for recreational and therapeutic consumption of cannabis products.
Today, Colorado has a vibrant cannabis health tourism industry and Jamaica could also be a leader in this new and emerging industry/market, especially in the area of treating cancer with cannabinoids.