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Jamaica to Lobby US Government on Medical Cannabis

Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw

Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw says Government is in full support of any lobbying effort to get United States (US) banks to facilitate stakeholders in the medical cannabis industry.

And he says the Andrew Holness-led administration will be using all of its diplomatic channels to petition the American Government, mainly through its Treasury Department, to loosen its financial laws to address the problem of de-risking.

He noted that while marijuana is legally available in some form in several American states “most US banks do not want anything to do with money from the cannabis industry for fear it could expose them to legal trouble from the federal government, which still considers marijuana illegal”.

The conflict between state and federal law has left many marijuana growers and sellers in the growing global industry in a legal dilemma, shutting them out of everyday financial services like opening a bank account or obtaining a credit card.

The Minister noted that the Administration stands in full solidarity with the attorneys general from 33 states, who last week sent a letter to Congress, urging members to fully open the doors of the US banking system to the legal marijuana industry.

“The local banks are fearful of funding the growth of the medical cannabis industry for fear of being de-risked by their international counterparts in the US,” he pointed out.

“All of our local commercial banks are obliged right now to go through the New York system as it relates to the movement of money internationally.”

Shaw said this is posing a problem for the development of a lucrative medical cannabis industry, and is affecting Jamaica’s ability to make an impact in the rapidly growing global market.

“I am not talking about recreational marijuana now. We are talking about cannabis for medicinal purposes. We probably can do better than anybody in this (market),” he contended.

In the meantime, the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) says Jamaica remains “at the very top” of cannabis reform efforts regionally.

According to Director of the CLA, Delano Seiveright, it was in late 2016 that the current board of CLA started taking applications, thereafter granting the first set of licences in late 2017.

“Today, we have over 35 licences issued spanning cultivator, retail, processing and research and development. More broadly, we have 600 applications to date that include 190 applications at the conditional approval stage and another 367 at desk review and verification stage,” he pointed out.

“No other country in the Caribbean has achieved even quarter of what Jamaica has and the board of the CLA, led by Hyacinth Lightbourne and its Chief Executive Officer, Lincoln Allen, deserves commendation for their efforts to position Jamaica as a future leader in this industry.”

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