CI Shorts: The slow growth of legalised ganga
2017 has seen some major moves towards legalising the use of small amounts of marijuana across the Caribbean.
There’s been active debate in the Caribbean since Uruguay made the first moves in the region towards legalisation. Caribbean Intelligence© looks at some of the recent developments on marijuana legalisation:
- Belize has signed into law changes to allow the possession of up to 10g of marijuana without criminal penalty. The November 2017 move followed heated discussion in Belize; some senators argued that the country did not have enough rehab facilities to support decriminalisation and some church groups argued that decriminalisation, even for such a small amount of ganja, was a step in the wrong direction.
- Jamaica, which had decriminalised possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2015, issued the country’s first two cannabis licences in October 2017. Everyting Oily Labs received a processing licence and Epican was issued with a licence for cultivation. The chairman of the Cannabis Licensing Authority of Jamaica (CLA), Hyacinth Lightbourne, said that the new licences represented the start of what would be a thriving medicinal ganja industry in Jamaica. Three other licences have been issued, but the companies concerned are completing the necessary requirements. A further 57 licences are at conditional approval stage. Epican said that it had a 46,000-sq-ft facility for growing cannabis and had obtained conditional licences for processing, retail, research and development. Everyting Oily Labs said that the company would be focusing on the processing of cannabis into oils for the medical and therapeutic industries.
- One of the companies coming through the Jamaican cannabis production approval pipeline is the world’s largest marijuana producer, Canada’s Canopy Growth Corporation. Its announcement to expand south to gain a strong foothold in the Jamaican cannabis market saw its share value rise by more than 50% because of increased investor interest. Canopy Growth has a 49% share in a company called Grow House JA Limited, which will be called Tweed JA, named after the Tweed subsidiary division of the Canadian giant.
- Meanwhile, Jamaica’s first medical cannabis biotechnology company, Medicanja Limited, launched its first six ganja-based products for the treatment of pains, swellings and strains. The products were initially available in November in Jamaican pharmacies and the company is also seeking international markets.
- A commission of inquiry in Guyana looking into disturbances at Georgetown Prison in 2015 that killed 17 prisoners has recommended that no one should be jailed for possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use. The Commission further recommended that Guyanese authorities should avoid remanding what it called “low-level, non-violent” drug offenders and instead look at non-custodial sentences such as community service, treatment and educational opportunities. It said there was a need to distinguish between drug trafficking and “low-level” drug offending. Guyana’s attorney-general, however, said that the cabinet had not yet considered that part of the commission’s report.
- A poll conducted by Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) has reported that 51% of St Lucians supported full legalisation or partial decriminalisation. The September survey interviewed 1,000 people in St Lucia. 38% wanted to keep the status quo. CADRES said that the St Lucia poll had delivered results similar to its research into attitudes on full legalisation in St Vincent. The pollsters found that more people were supportive of full legalisation in Barbados, Dominica and Antigua.
- The Regional Commission on Marijuana announced in November 2017 that its consultations were continuing across the Caribbean, in line with the call by CARICOM for “careful in-depth research”. The commission said that, in addition to its national consultation, it would be conducting extensive secondary research to inform the preparation of reports for submission to CARICOM leaders.
From 2013: The Caribbean: Dealing with drugs seriously
Caribbean Intelligence looks back on the news of 2013 – including the drug debate.