The Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) says that the Cultivator’s (Transitional) Special Permit Policy, which is in an advanced stage of completion, will enable more small and subsistence farmers to access the opportunities available within the medicinal cannabis industry.
Senior Legal Officer (Acting) at the CLA, Sheldon Reid, tells JIS News that the special permit, which will last for two years, will allow farmers to continue to cultivate while they prepare to transition to licensing status.
He notes that the cost to obtain a licence is prohibitive for some small and subsistence farmers, and the permit will provide another avenue for them to enter the legal sector.
“We want to give you this permit for you to cultivate your cannabis where you are, and for two years, we want you to use that time to develop your facility to the standard that is needed for licencing, and after the two years, you can apply for your licence,” he explains.
Mr. Reid tells JIS News that once the policy is in place it is expected that more small farmers will progress into the licensed regime.
He notes that, already, many farmers, while they are cultivating illegally, are doing so “at such incredible standards” and all they need is the licence.
“Some of the sites that we have visited, the farmers are very organised, they use organic material and we were pleased to see that they are ready to transition in terms of what they are doing on the ground now,” he shares.
It is proposed that persons who seek to enter the industry via the special permit will benefit from concessions such as reduced and deferred fees, and variations in existing infrastructure and security arrangements.
“A major benefit is that you don’t need as much capital as the typical licensees, as you wouldn’t have all of the security features that you would need to get a licence,” Mr. Reid notes.
He says that persons are required to have access to legitimate land, with at least five feet of fencing, which he notes, could comprise “bamboo and hog wire”.
Mother farm arrangements are also being considered as a part of the framework for the special permit.
“If you have one transitional permit holder, who is selling his ganja to a licenced processor or cultivator, what we would want is an arrangement where the licensed cultivator or processor – big brother or mother – helps him with building out his facility to reach the standards. He helps him with cultivating his ganja according to a certain standard,” Mr. Reid explains.
Since June this year, the Authority has engaged in consultation sessions with licensees, small and traditional ganja farmers, and ministries, departments and agencies to inform the policy.
“With this ongoing consultation, we have come to an agreement about the fees that we are proposing, the duration of the permit and the overall sustainability of the programme,” he says.
Mr. Reid tells JIS News that the CLA’s goal is for the special permit fee to be at least 50 per cent lower than the cost to obtain a tier-one cultivator’s licence, which is US$1,000.
The CLA is aiming to have the special permit integrated into the regulatory regime before the end of quarter four of the 2020/2021 financial year.
Mr. Reid is encouraging small and subsistence farmers to take advantage of the arrangement when it becomes available.
“You are also guaranteeing yourself legality, as there are persons who have traditionally cultivated ganja without a licence, which is a criminal offence, which can affect your opportunities,” he points out.
The CLA was established in 2015 under the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act (DDA) with a specific role to establish and regulate Jamaica’s legal cannabis and hemp industry.
Since its establishment, the CLA has granted 67 licences, including 28 for cultivation, 23 for retail, 11 for processing, four for research and development, and one for transportation. The CLA has also issued 315 conditionally approved licences from 712 applications.
Conditional approvals allow the applicant sufficient time to put in place the requisite infrastructure to support the granting of a licence.
Mr. Reid says that as the CLA grows, it will continue to come up with new ideas.
“This is why our regulations are called interim regulations, because the industry is still young and growing,” he notes.