A leading figure in Jamaica’s cannabis industry has warned authorities here and elsewhere in the Caribbean they could lose out on lucrative opportunities while they mull over whether to get involved.
Founder and Event Director of CanEx Jamaica, Douglas Gordon, said tremendous opportunities are just waiting to be harvested but won’t be around forever.
Gordon, who was addressing a cannabis investment summit, “Capital Meets Cannabis” at the Courtyard by Marriot hotel on Tuesday, said Barbados and the rest of the region had the chance to become a primary source for products from cannabis.
He said: “We can make our own original products and solutions. We can grow from the ground up and command premium prices instead of just being second-tier operators in the global space reselling other people’s IP (intellectual property). That is what we have to grasp hold of. That is really and truly where our opportunity is.
“We need to move, we need to understand what this opportunity is and grab it by the reins and don’t let go because this is not something we can afford [to lose out on]. We have very small populations… but I know the opportunity is here in front of us.”
Canex Jamaica, a conference and events company, is a subsidiary of Zimmer and Company, a health and wellness distribution firm which focuses on hemp-based products.
Warning that the Caribbean should not “sit here and languish” in the next five to seven years over missed opportunities, Gordon said now was the time to put systems in place and get involved in the cannabis industry.
For several months, Government has been indicating its desire to develop a medical cannabis industry, while cautioning that any move towards legalising marijuana for recreational use would have to come through a referendum.
Gordon declared: “This is an opportunity to help our regions to have better economies, better health, better education, better lives for the next set of generation of people and we need to grab hold of it as best as we possibly can.”
But he warned authorities and potential investors not to get caught up in the economic benefits, pointing out that while there was tremendous revenue to be gained from the industry there would be some challenges.
He cautioned: “Below the surface that we don’t talk about is all the work and pitfalls and different stresses that come along with the industry and if you don’t have the conviction of why you are doing this, it is very easy to get disillusioned and distracted or just completely abandoned the process.”
Barbados did not have to get involved in marijuana cultivation, he suggested, but consider other areas such as branding, selling finished products, distribution, extraction and offering related services.
Pointing out that the country was heavily dependent on tourism, he said areas such as medical, health and wellness and palliative care could also reap benefits for the country and its citizens.
He warned Barbados not to make the mistake of under-educating the population on cannabis.
“Some of the other jurisdictions have not done an effective job of outlining some of the economic benefits to the population,” he said.
The cannabis industry executive said there was still a need overcome the stigma associated with marijuana in the region, the development of export mechanisms, faster implementation of processes and measures to fully comply with international banking laws.
“I encourage you today to take full advantage. Too much of the cannabis industry is lost time because we speculate,” Gordon said, while pointing out that Jamaica was “a good model” for Barbados and other markets still waiting to get invovled.
During the panel discussions, officials also warned of the need to be wary of self-proclaimed experts on ganja as some who will pop up just as they learn of efforts to develop the cannabis industry here.