The CanEx Jamaica Expo featured a diverse group of “Ganja-preneurs”. It showcased the advancements the Cannabis Industry, from high-tech testing equipment to coconut steamers. It offered a “greener” perspective on the history and future of Cannabis.
The Montego Bay Convention Centre was quite literally lit up on Friday (September 1st 2017), as CanEx Jamaica shined a light on the forerunners in Jamaica’s newest most promising industry. Whether it was Mel’s Tree-Eats’ Cannabis edibles – a popular provider of Cannabis snacks, or the highly sophisticated technology of Advanced Innovation Distribution, the Convention Centre became home to all members of the Cannabis Industry for the day. Also present were Lion’s Garden All-Natural Cannabis Oils and Extracts and Prana’s Bio Nutrient Medicinals. Perhaps it was the exhilaration of the green rush, the reason yet to be known to us, the Montego Bay Convention centre was brimming with high intrigue. The aim of CanEx Jamaica is to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and networking among Industry stakeholders. Douglas Gordon, host of the CanEx Jamaica Expo 2017, promised the eager attendees as well as the unfortunate absentees that this would be the first of many expos of this nature. As Jamaica moves closer to establishing its first legal Medical Marijuana Industry, events like this become increasingly necessary to keep all stakeholders abreast of the progress, as well as to keep the conversation amongst them active.
The speakers, Dr Dahnabalan, Dr Gordon, Greg Douglas, Michael Minardi, Bonita Money, Larisa Bolivar, to name a few, were passionate about the possibilities for the future of the Industry locally and internationally. Keef Magazine’s on-the-spot interviews revealed much enthusiasm amongst the speakers. They spoke highly on Jamaica’s potential to be a hub for Medical Cannabis in Latin America and the Caribbean Dr. Henry Lowe, Owner of Medicanja, spoke on Jamaica’s history with the herb, referencing the first commercial Cannabis product “Canasol” which was produced in Jamaica in the late 1970’s. Dr Lowe further mentioned some of the issues Jamaica has faced and may continue to face as efforts are made to build the Medical Cannabis Industry, primarily, political support, clear policy and decision making, and the availability of loans to persons in the cannabis industry. A panel amongst men convened which lead to further discussions on the problems faced by the industry. The panel comprised of Dr Gordon, Greg Douglas, CEO – Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA), and Michael Minardi. It was intimated by Dr Lowe, that Jamaica made a blunder in setting up the Cannabis Industry by allowing a single entity, the CLA to be responsible for both Policy Making, and Regulations. He further noted that a similar such blunder had previously been made and corrected in Jamaica with the Bureau of Standards. The good doctor, however, had a positive view for the future of the Industry. He mentioned that his own Research & Development institution, the BioTech Institute, is conducting research which will put us on par with some of the more prominent canna-economies like those in the Middle East. He also emphasized the importance of exploring the full potential of the plant instead of remaining focused on only THC and CBD extracts. He stated “…we have to take it to the next level; products such as edibles and oils are only the first step; if we remain limited to these products we will surely lose out in the years to come”. The next level of Canna-produce could include cosmeceuticals, nutraceuticals, and pharmaceuticals
Turning the Black-Market Green
Charting the way forward for Jamaica and the world was preliminarily outlined by the panellists as minor details. It was noted that little was left for artisan groups like small farmers owing to the large corporate groups that have taken over most of the Cannabis market. Larisa Bolivar, Business Consultant and Director of the Cannabis Consumer Collation, has fought some of these corporate groups preventing them from introducing products grown with harmful chemicals. Bonita “Bo” Money, founder of Women ABUV Ground, tries to assist persons who wish to enter the Cannabis Industry.
“Cannabis is first a part of our culture…” said Greg Douglas, “…the people have love for it. In Jamaica Ganja is not just a means for financial gain” A part of the CLA’s aim in Dr. Douglas’ words “Our aim is to merge the business and culture of Cannabis as best we can, we already have the Industry, now our focus is to bring it into the light and regulate it”,
Also addressed was the speed with which the process of generating a regulated industry was taking, pointing to the myriad of international obligations Jamaica had to meet regarding drug control. On the international scene, the Federal Government of the United States has yet to make legal the use of the plant, therefore, Jamaicans have but to err on the side of caution in their dealings regarding the Cannabis Industry
Discussions were concluded with the participation of the audience who were eager to question the team. Met with uncertainty in the efforts of the team, the question was posed querying if doctors were being taught about Medical Cannabis and how to prescribe or monitor patients who use it. A resounding yes was heard from Dr. Gordon, who proudly announced that seventy-five (75) doctors had already been trained and an additional forty (40) had applied for similar training. Mr. Minardi then added that slow progress was better than no progress, and Jamaica, unlike the United States, has doctors interested in adopting these new treatment protocols. The Host of the CanEx conference Douglas Gordon offered a point on the Industry’s legislation, suggesting that one unified document be produced to regulate the Industry as opposed to each arm of government developing its own rules regarding Medical Cannabis. Dr Gordon responded, reassuring all in attendance that the legal teams of the CLA and the MOH have been in collaboration to avoid any such outcome.
The CanEx Jamaica Conference helped push the dialogue needed between major players and other Industry stakeholders. This dialogue is just one of the first steps necessary on a long road to realising the legalization of Cannabis, not only for medicinal use but recreational, manufacturing, and therapeutic purposes. The industry has seemingly limitless potential as Cannabis can be utilised in almost every other Industry. However, the challenges being faced will have to be overcome and so done with an amount of finesse and some je ne sais quoi. We are currently on the verge of developing a billion dollar Industry, and as pointed out by Greg Douglas there is no need to re-invent the wheel, there are already models for the type of Industry that work well and with a few tweaks Jamaica could generate a model that fits our needs.