Cannabusiness: Opportunities Knock As Jamaica Eases Weed Laws

When Jamaica’s House of Representatives passed an amendment last month to its Dangerous Drugs Act, thereby decriminalizing small amounts of weed, the ink was barely dry on the legislation before United Cannabis was announcing a partnership with Jamaica’s Cannabinoid Research & Development (CRD) and Scientific Research Council, with collaboration with the University of the West Indies (UWI).

Under the agreement, United Cannabis will bring its entire Prana Bio Medicinal product line to the island-nation for preclinical trials and product analysis.

United, a giant in developing medical-grade strains of CBD-heavy cannabis, has a penchant for moving into emerging markets quickly. They’ve been in California since the early days of legal medical herb; they set up shop in Colorado in 2009; they cut a deal this year with a Native American tribe in Mendocino County within weeks of the Justice Department’s announcement to allow grows on the reservation; and now they are planting their flag on Jamaica.

Moving fast to keep up with changing legislation obviously requires laying groundwork beforehand. “United Cannabis and its subsidiary CRD has been working locally in Jamaica for months, anticipating the final approval to move forward with our initial phase to start preclinical trials,” says Chief Technical Officer Tony Verzura.

One of the purported goals of the partnership is to standardize both cannabis cultivation and production of medical products for research and development. To this end they’ve created a “Ganja Cooperative” to give local farmers access to established genetics and training. “We listen to many ganja farmers, businessmen, and especially the Rastafari community to find out what they wanted for their country,” says Verzura.

One of the partners in CRD is the legendary ice-hash guru Bubbleman, who joined Verzura on extensive fact-finding missions all over the country. “We visited hundreds of guerrilla farms, and visited with the various ganja association presidents throughout the island.”

What they found was that many of the genetics were watered down after so many years of OG and Kush integration. But then they got an idea. “We found a variety of Lamb’s Bread and decided then that we wanted to help them restore a Jamaica-branded strain that could be bred back for the jungle, so to speak,” says the CTO. “We intend to collect the variety of strains from the island these ganja farmers need to sustain a health crop rich in medicinal resin.”

It is estimated that more than 4,000 local jobs can come out of this partnership, although some of these will be existing jobs – longtime farmers, for example – who can now emerge from the shadows of illegality.

“They no longer will have to fear their crops will be taken from them,” says Verzura, “but be encouraged to do a better job with the tools they need to establish themselves a new long-term, legitimate career. The youth is extremely eager to get involved.”

Due to the cost of electricity and other factors, we won’t be seeing very many indoor grows, but that should be perfectly irie in sunny Jamaica.

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