It not for the small man - Some farmers bash ganja licensing requirements

July 11, 2016
Ian Allen/Photographer Chairperson for CLA, Hyacinth Lightbourne, speaks with one of the attendees at a Ganja Forum in White Horses, St Thomas.

Some farmers bash ganja licensing requirements

Some small farmers are asserting that they are being precluded from partaking in the ganja-growing industry based on the stringent requirements set out by the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA).

The concerns were raised at a town hall meeting held by the CLA in St Thomas recently. The meeting formed part of a series of islandwide meetings being held by the CLA to educate and consult with persons interested in obtaining a licence for partaking in the ganja industry. Attendees sat through an hour-long presentation, which informed them about the requirements and conditions for acquiring a licence.

Among the requirements are that the fees must be paid in US currency. The cheapest licence is the cultivator's licence, which costs US$2,000 ($252,769), and increases as land size increases. The most expensive licence is the transportation licence, which costs US$10,000 ($1,263,846) for the first vehicle to be licensed, and US$1,000 ($126,384) for each additional vehicle.

Prospective ganja growers were also informed that their cultivation site must have off-site surveillance, for which a watchman cannot substitute. The site must be accessible by road and must possess sufficient parking for vehicles on to which the ganja will be loaded. Additionally, the cultivator must be able to show clear ownership of the land.

Many of these requirements did not sit well with some of the prospective ganja growers. Chairperson of the CLA Hyacinth Lightbourne was interrupted mid-presentation by Constantine Bogle, who is the councillor for Yallahs. "We the little people are listening to the presentation, but I have had enough of this! Nothing at all no inna this fi the small man!" Bogle interjected. "I don't see where this is open to the average person. Most Jamaicans don't have any title for land. Most Jamaicans have 'dead-leff' land that they have legal access to. So the types of regulations that are required to show that they have access to land, wont work."

Bogle was met with applause from the audience when he said: "When I listen to the regulations presented, this is just something that is put together by a group of lawyers to present to the small man, but the truth is, there is nothing in it for the small man. The people who head this organisation [CLA] and who will be benefiting from this greatly are not those who suffer and have been through great tribulation."

Another irate prospective farmer questioned why the transactions had to be done in US currency. "Afta we no spend US dollars in Jamaica; it's not our national currency," he said.

Also in attendance was Maxine Stowe, consultant to the Rastafari Millennium Council (RMC), who took the floor to express her concern that very little attention was being given to the role of the Rastafarian community and their sacramental rights provisions in the process.

Lightbourne noted that the concerns expressed would be taken into consideration to further improve the framework of the Cannabis Licensing Authority.

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