KINGSTON –– Jamaicans interested in investing in growing of ganja primarily for medical, as well as recreational use are being encouraged to look to Canada for partnerships in developing the controversial industry.
Following the lead of several American states in holding referendums which have, so far, been extremely supportive of reducing the legal restraints on the use of the drug, Jamaica amended its Dangerous Drugs Act in April last year. The changes included reducing penalties for possession and smoking of ganja, use of ganja by those of the Rastafarian faith, and use of ganja for medical, therapeutic and scientific purposes.
However, with a limited market for excessive production of ganja (marijuana), and with the threat of increased action against its importation from American authorities, not much has changed in terms of the use
of the drug locally, except that people can be ticketed instead of imprisoned for public use or conveyance, and Rastafarians can get an exemption for using it at certain religious events.
But, the advent of Justin Trudeau, son of an old friend of Jamaica, Pierre Trudeau, as a successor to his father who was Liberal prime minister of Canada between 1968 and 1984, has rekindled the spirit of collaboration which existed between both countries then.
The young Trudeau first publicly expressed an interest in the legalization of marijuana, while speaking at a rally in British Columbia
on July 24, 2013.
“I’m actually not in favour of decriminalizing cannabis. I’m in favour of legalizing it. Tax it, regulate. It’s one of the only ways to keep it out of the hands of our kids, because the current war on drugs, the current model is not working,” he said.
In an interview in August, 2013, Trudeau related that the last time he had used marijuana was in 2010, after he had become a Member of Parliament.
“We had a few good friends over for a dinner party, our kids were at their grandmother’s for the night, and one of our friends lit a joint and passed it around. I had a puff,” he explained.
After the Liberal Party formed the government in November, 2015, with Trudeau as prime minister, he announced that a federal-provincial-territorial process was being created to discuss a suitable process for the legalization of marijuana possession for recreational purposes. The plan is to remove marijuana consumption and incidental possession from the Criminal Code. However, new laws will be enacted for greater punishment of those convicted of supplying ganja to minors and for impairment while driving a motor vehicle.
By late November, new Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould said she and the ministers of health and public safety were already working on specifics of the new legislation.
Not only have marijuana stocks soared since Justin Trudeau’s appointment, but there have been comments in the Press that Canada’s current medical marijuana industry could expand into a totally legalized sector raking billions in marijuana dollars.
“Those with a stake in cannabis-related companies weren’t just hoping the Liberals would win the federal election, they were [literally] banking on it,’’ one report commented.
The medical marijuana industry in Canada has a market of some 40,000 users and is estimated to worth CAN$1.3 billion, much less than its potential. But with expansion of the industry and its market, Canada would be forced to look to countries like Jamaica for raw material.
The Canadian medical marijuana sector believes that growth will happen with the expansion into non-medical marijuana. The marijuana firms have not been resting on their laurels in the interim, but capitalizing on the post-election buzz, including strengthening ties with local ganja connections.