WUC research into Jamaica’s new medical marijuana scheme

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Writtle University College researchers are investigating Jamaica’s new medical marijuana scheme and the barriers to its successful implementation.

PhD student Simon Jones and Dr Chris Bishop, specialist in Postharvest Technology, are working with colleagues at the University of the West Indies, in Jamaica, to determine why farmers in the nation are struggling to engage with the ‘ganja’ scheme.

Their co-authored study, published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, has found that, although Jamaica has over 180,000 registered farmers growing traditional crops, only 25 applications have been made for ganja cultivation licences. Small farmers are therefore likely to continue to grow and sell marijuana illegally rather than adopt the legalised scheme.

Mr Jones, who has an MSc in Postharvest Technology from Writtle and is studying part-time for a PhD, said: “Due to high licensing fees and other financial and infrastructure burdens, small farmers in Jamaica are not engaging with the new medical marijuana scheme. This will potentially distort the medical market and undermine its successful implementation.”

Scientists at WUC investigate supply chain issues of agricultural and horticultural products and the associated risks and issues in the supply chain. The research into ganja has been prompted as the uniformity of the product and its active ingredients are essential for its medical use in the treatment of diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and research is needed into how to produce it efficiently, safely and economically for the end user.

Dr Bishop said: “The opportunity to change a troublesome issue into an income earner for farmers, processors, retailers and the Jamaican government is an opportunity that must not be missed by too much or too little control and must be seen as a technical as well as a political and economic challenge.”

The study investigated how value chain stakeholders have responded to the administrative, infrastructural and financial burdens of obtaining a licensee to grow, process and retail medical marijuana in Jamaica.

Government Ministers have highlighted the benefits of introducing a medical ganja scheme to diversify the Jamaican economy, increase employment, support the rights of Rastafarians and reduce the use of scarce criminal justice resources.

The authors comment that the new regulations in Jamaica appear to be drawn from schemes implemented in North America with little localisation for a developing country. Small farmers are therefore likely to continue to grow and sell illegally.

The Cannabis Licencing Authority began accepting applications in June 2016 from growers wishing to farm medical ganja, but only 25 applications have been made as of the end of November 2016. The study suggests this could be due to significant administrative, infrastructural and financial burdens on licensees.

Small farmers growing up to an acre would normally pay a US$300 application fee, a US$2,000 annual licence fee and have to provide a US$1,000 security bond (although some fees have been temporarily waived to encourage participation).

But the main financial burden is that farmers must make infrastructure improvements including the provision of a security fence – which could cost up to US$10,000, pricing the small farmer out of the market.

The authors said: “Although the initial response by stakeholders to the new scheme has been less than enthusiastic, as in other countries implementing a medical marijuana scheme in Jamaica will likely take a number of years with repeated iterations of new and updated regulations covering the whole value chain.”

The authors note that as developed countries and developing countries including Jamaica introduce medical marijuana schemes, there have been significant differences in the business practices underlying the practical implementation of the schemes. Although some of the differences can be attributed to differing interpretations of how medical schemes can be introduced while still meeting international treaty obligations, other differences relate to the degree to which the scheme follows the template of other schemes or the extent to which it has been localised and additionally the categories of products available whether dried bud, oils, concentrates, tinctures or edibles.


The research is co-authored by Mr Jones a, Dr Bishop a and Professor Roy Porter b.
a Postharvest Unit, Writtle University College, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 3RR, UK
b Chemistry Department, University of West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica

Paper: The Implementation of Medical Ganja in Jamaica

Journal: International Journal of Drug Policy

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.02.002