CanEx founder Douglas Gordon has welcomed a suggestion that players in the cannabis sector should view the millions of visitors that travel to Jamaica each year as potential buyers of medical marijuana. In fact Gordon, whose annual business conference brings local and international cannabis stakeholders together, says selling to tourists should be among the areas of focus.
“Jamaica facilitating sales of cannabis to tourists and locals through legal and official channels should be a key priority of the industry. In order to expand the market beyond the existing users, consumers have to get a real sense of quality and standards and that is where the legal market and channels have to show their value,” he said on Tuesday in response to questions from the Jamaica Observer’s LetsTravelCaribbean.com.
While speaking at CanEx last week Minster of Industry, Investment and Commerce Senator Aubyn Hill touted the legalised sale of marijuana to visitors as a way for Jamaica to earn revenue from countries that do not allow imports of the herb.
In an interview with LetsTravelCaribbean.com on Tuesday, Hill stressed that his comments were confined to the sale of medical marijuana. He also called on industry stakeholders to explain how they intend to take advantage of what he sees as a great opportunity.
“The Government is setting the rules broadly, making sure we stay within the treaty obligations…Now what are you doing to make sure you expand your market from the ordinary three million Jamaican people that we have, or whatever number of those that would be involved in using that product, to a lot broader market that comes straight here for you? You don’t even have to go overseas to get them. What are you doing about it?” he asked of industry stakeholders.
According to Hill, his ministry has issued 160 licences, including 63 for dispensaries where medical cannabis can be retailed, and there are efforts being made to determine whether it is “possible to make mobile arrangements for the sale of medicinal cannabis”. Steps are also being taken, the minister said, to roll out a project that will see 16 communities across the country given the go ahead to each grow 10 acres of cannabis. The onus will be on producers, he stressed, to figure out how they will get their cannabis into resort areas. They will need to operate within the context of regulations that govern transportation of the plant.
“Look at your market. See what your licence allows you; see what your incoming visitors would want to have. Make sure you enable the system as much as it can within the law and expand your business. That’s my advice [to stakeholders],” said Hill.
But Gordon is of the view that while the Government has done a lot, they should make the screening methods for dispensaries more user-friendly.
“I still believe that needs to be a lot simpler and uniform so that the retail channels are not overburdened by onerous ‘qualification steps’ for a consumer to purchase legal cannabis,” he said. Simplified regulations, Gordon argued, would mean dispensary owners and operators spend less time worrying about compliance and more on selling, marketing and engaging consumers.
“There has been too much focus on ‘regulation’ versus ‘facilitation’ and it’s refreshing to hear both Senator Hill and Minister [of Culture Olivia] Grange looking at the industry from different perspectives and priorities but both with initiatives and a shared vision that it should be expanded to benefit many more Jamaicans as well the wider economy,” he added.