Attorney Barry Gainsburg’s observations on Jamaica’s Cannabis Licensing Authority
“The rich will do anything for the poor but get off their backs.” – Karl Marx
Jamaica’ s Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) had released its Proposed Interim Regulations in May 2016. In an effort to receive feedback and commentary on the Regulations, the CLA has held meetings in the parishes across Jamaica during the month of June.
Additionally, several news articles have been published discussing the CLA’s intended strategies in implementing the Regulations. I have just returned from the ground in Jamaica and I wish to share my observations with you my friends.
The Sunday Observer recently noted that no tickets have been issued by Jamaica’s police forces to individuals for violations involving the smoking of r ganja in Jamaica. Based on the 2015 legislation, public ganja smoking was decriminalized and would result in a J$ 500 fine.
Or, in other words, would result in a ticket of approximately $4 US. Currently, the excuse provided has been that there are no “Ticket Books” available for the issuing of such violations.
However, one must question how tickets were issued regarding ganja possession and smoking previously. While I agree with the policy of no ticketing at all, it seems problematic to place such laws on the book and yet not enforce those. It would seem to I to be better to simply eliminate such ticketing requirement rather than have unenforceable rules on the books.
Late in June, the CLA announced that it is seeking to implement the placing of Kiosks at cruise and airport terminals which will provide ganja medical cards to international travelers.
Ms. Cynthia Lightbourne, Chairwoman of the CLA states, “It would primarily be for people who have a prescription and, in effect, you’re doing it for medicinal purposes with a permit from the Ministry of Health. If they don’t have a prescription, then they can do what we call ‘self-declare’, and this will allow them to have the two ounces while they are here,”
Now, I am not one to quibble on the medicinal benefits and use of ganja. The CLA’s desire to permit reciprocity for those with medical cards from other jurisdictions is noble, if not enlightened self-economic interest.
However, one would be remiss if we were to ignore the “self-declare” option. Essentially, this is governmental hypocrisy in action. Rather than use a “nod-and-wink” approach, Jamaica should legalize recreational use of ganja today, and regulate it accordingly. The false pretense of “self declaration” is absurd. It is absurd as allowing someone without a driving license to “Self Declare” that they are capable of driving and then the government hands them a license without thought.
This raises the question of how much will the Jamaican Medical Ganja Permit sell for? If it is $50, would a rational person just pass on the permit and use those funds to purchase their medical ganja. I know I would. Especially since there is no consequence. Now if the fee were $10 might I pay it? More likely than if it were the $50, to ensure that I had legal coverage in any situation. $10 is a good insurance policy, and for $50 I would take I’s chances.
Why would the CLA take such an approach you may ask? But I bet you may very well know the answer already. Big money, Big Money, no whammies, Big Money.
CLA member Delano Seiveright said the permit-dispenser system for tourists would represent a potentially significant revenue stream for the Government. He said the evidence from other jurisdictions is that big money can come from proper regulation and permitting.
“In Colorado last year, even though it is recreational and medicinal, they sold about US$1 billion worth of marijuana and collected $135 million in taxes for the state alone with a population of five million plus. The Canadian market for medical, due to their patient system, they earn US$100 million from that alone, and their view is that if they open it up, then they will have a US$5-billion industry and the US overall is about US$5.4 billion last year and US$6.7 billion this year. So you can see the potential it presents,” Seiveright reported.
So this is not about proper regulation, but as I&I All know it is about the Big Ganja Money. But wait there is more.
A subsequent news release on June 29, 2016 spoke to how the CLA would permit these Kiosks to also sell Ganja directly to tourists at the ports. Jamaica is planning to install marijuana-dispensing kiosks for tourists in order to regulate a growing drug market and to bring in more government revenue. This is in addition to simply providing for the issuing of permits.
Two quick observations, first is that the release of these proposals came at the end of June. Is that just coincidence? I think not since these plans were already being finalized prior to June. In addition, as these proposals were released on almost the last day of June, they would not be debated or addressed at the CLA’s parish meetings avoiding the obvious ire from local ganjapreneurs to be.
How do I make sense of this? Well, if we go back to the Interim Regulations requiring the need of cultivators to contract with a party in advance of delivery with a counter-party or an independent third party, this section’s true intent is revealed. The Jamaican Ganja Grower will be forced to sell its product directly to the Government of Jamaica, as the “Independent Third Party” at the price the government determines is “fair”.
The government will then take that Ganja and, the government itself will sell the ganja, for a tidy profit as indicated above. The Government of Jamaica will now directly compete with its citizens, to their economic disadvantage, in this ganja space.
If I were a local future Jamaican ganja cultivator and/or dispensary, especially in the big tourist towns of Montego Bay, Ochos Rios and Negril, i might be prepared to march on Kingston with pitchforks and torches in hand.
These policies completely undermine the economic incentive of helping the locals and it is being implemented without a thoughtful and full debate of policy.
It becomes hypocritical for a government which killed, jailed and stigmatized its citizens over ganja, now taking control of such for its own economic purposes while at the same time cutting the long time ganja warriors out at the knees. This is not a government for the people, but as stated it is a government for “Big Money”.
Finally, the CLA has undertaken to create a Ganja Seed registry; “Already, we are well away doing this, as we have put in place the scientific framework for determining a number of factors in the establishment and the ownership of the different brands [of ganja], which have evolved over the years in Jamaica,” Professor Winston Davidson said.”This goes to the heart of protecting the rights of the Jamaican people so that whatever benefits are to be derived from the different species which will be identified goes to the rightful owners of the development of these brands.”
The Bureau is working with the Ganja Growers’ Association to determine the various strains of ganja on the island and the owners of these strains.
Now, when one speaks to the grass roots farmer with specific strains they are weary of trusting the government with any of this information. And candidly, I would agree with them. Having viewed how the government is taking control of the ganja dispensaries in ports for its own self interest, one may be left to imagine what the government would do with possession and control over the genetic coding and intellectual property rights of Jamaican ganja farmers and cooperatives.
Many of the farmers I spoke with are extremely hesitant of sharing this information for fear of the government exploitation. If this program is to succeed on any level, the CLA and government will have to provide tangible assurances of intellectual property protection. And even then I believe that many will simply not trust the government to do the right thing by them with ample empirical evidence.
I will keep you all apprised of further developments as they come to I’s attention. Jah Blessings.
Editor’s Note: The writer, Barry R. Gainsburg (PA) is an attorney whose chamber- Barry Gainsburg, PA is focused on providing legal counsel to the Cannabis and Securities Industries.
Note from Mr Barry:
Please feel free to reach out to me via email Gainsburg@bellsouth.net or JahGanjaMayor@gmail.com for Jah, Ganja & Reggae, Limited Ganja Consulting Services. Please visit my website at www.barrygainsburg.com if you have any other legal issues involving the cannabis industry. I am here to serve the cannabis community.