COVID could fuel illegal ganja trade
Ganja advocate Maxine Isis Stowe says the ganja industry, like all other industries globally, has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
She believes that, as a result, Jamaica will continue to see increased illegal operations surrounding ganja, as both legal and illegal farmers and stakeholders try to benefit from what they have invested.
"The COVID marketplace has shut down a lot of the potential domestic and international exports. The market now has more players and more growers, and they don't have anywhere to go but the local market. The local market is saturated, and the illegal market has never stopped, because there is a demand," Stowe told THE STAR. "I would imagine that, right now, the amount of ganja in Jamaica must be enormous."
In September, 1,960 pounds of compressed ganja, valued at $7.8 million, were seized in Parrottee, St Elizabeth. A man was arrested and another escaped.
Four men were arrested following the seizure of more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana by the Area One Narcotics Division during an operation in Barrett Hall, St James on September 30.
In October, two soldiers were charged after they were intercepted transporting more than 2,000 pounds of ganja. And, just this week, a man was arrested by Portland police during a major drug bust on St George Street, Buff Bay. Ganja weighing approximately 1,300 pounds, at an estimated street value of $5.2 million, was found in parcels after police inspected two vehicles that were involved in a crash.
At the beginning of 2020, ganja farmers in western Jamaica blamed the Alternative Development Programme, geared at preventing illegal cannabis cultivation, for destroying their livelihoods. Ten months later, the issue remains.
"Nothing did change even when the media highlight how we a struggle. Me still nuh have the licence, but I don't know of any business since corona. It nuh make nuh sense, because the market freeze. Either a man nuh want it or a man a tell yuh seh him nuh have nuh money," one farmer said.
Stowe is adamant that persons are growing the weed, but the farmer is not convinced.
"First thing, we caa pay a man fi help we right now and transport or even pick the ganja, so we caa get nothing out pon the market. Everybody a find other means fi feed dem family. I am not saying a man nah do that, but a nuh all a we," he said.