Accompong maroons to grow weed in pilot programme
Prime Minister Andrew Holness says that a programme that will provide an avenue for small-scale ganja farmers to benefit from the ganja industry will start by March 2019.
The pilot, which will commence in Accompong, St Elizabeth, and Orange Hill in Westmoreland, will involve the farming of ganja to provide raw material for processors.
"It is a real fear that as that (ganja) industry emerges to become more corporatised, that the original ganja man, the original farmer, could very well be left out of the gains and the benefits, when you were the ones singing the praises and the benefits from how long," Holness said.
"So, this programme is of significant importance to ensure that small farmers and, in fact, communities like Accompong, where there is certain discipline, a certain order, a certain social system that will ensure that it is not used in illicit ways, will benefit," he added.
He was speaking at the Accompong Maroons' 281st celebration of the signing of the peace treaty with the British and the commemoration of the birthday of legendary leader Cudjoe on Sunday in the Maroon village.
The prime minister said he has received the commitment of Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw that the programme will begin within the first quarter of this year.
"I know that you have actually started your part of the programme, but you are now awaiting the Government's part of the programme to commence. I had a word with him (Minister Shaw), and he gave me a commitment that the Alternative Development Programme for the small ganja farmers to produce for the legal trade will start," he said.
The programme will be administered by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, with oversight from the Cannabis Licensing Authority and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority.
Among the stipulations are the tagging of plants under a track-and-trace mechanism; sale of products through licensed processors; farmers' alignment to community-based associations/organisations; accommodation of special groups, such as the Maroons and Rastafarians; and maximum cultivations not exceeding half an acre per farmer.