Pubdate: Thu, 13 Mar 2014
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 The Toronto Star
Author: Ashante Infantry

Going to Pot: The Business of Marijuana


As Canadian Rules Change, Nation Looks to Cash in on Export Market

Jamaica has spent plenty of money on marketing and police as it has 
tried to scrub its reputation as a reefer lover's paradise. But the 
global legalization movement, and encouragement from at least one 
Canadian company, has the island nation poised to cash in on its old brand.

With American states such as Colorado and Washington now regulating 
the use of recreational marijuana, and Canada's new Marihuana for 
Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), which allow for the licenced 
import of the drug, coming into force on April 1, other countries are 
looking to get into the export market.

After legalizing marijuana in December, with plans to sell it for $1 
a gram (as opposed the $6 per gram start price in Canada under MMPR), 
Uruguay is hearing from would-be importers.

And last fall, Jamaican lawmakers sought protection from the World 
Trade Organization for the word "ganja," by which the country's 
marijuana is popularly known, ahead of moves toward decriminalization 
and legislation of medicinal exports.

"Jamaica has a very long history and very well respected name in the 
community for producing high-quality marijuana products," said Blaine 
Dowdle, chief executive officer of Ontario-based MedCannAccess, which 
is on track to become a licensed cannabis distributor under MMPR. 
Dowdle's interest in acquiring Jamaican pot, publicly expressed at a 
Cannabis Stakeholders Forum in the country, made the front page of 
one major Kingston newspaper earlier this year.

With outdoor growing conditions, which are less expensive when 
compared to the costs of lighting and ventilation for indoor growers 
in Canada, and the availability of unique strains, he said the island 
could "fill a need" in the $1.3 billion Canadian market Health Canada 
anticipates. The new Canadian regulations will also offer a 
streamlined system for growing and distributing marijuana, and many 
business are in the final stages of preparation, finalizing 
financing, preparing warehouses and sourcing product.

A new source of tax revenues would be a boon to Jamaica's $20 billion 
(U.S.) debt, said University of the West Indies economics professor 
Andre Haughton.

"Whether tourists come here, or the medicines are supplied abroad, 
we'd be paid for this in foreign currency which will help to increase 
our foreign currency inflow," he explained. "There would be more 
economic activity and over time livelihoods of people will improve. 
This would be a big economic turnaround for us."

The focus, though, would not be the "high grade" marijuana Jamaican 
musicians and sacrament-taking Rastafarians talk about. It appears 
the strains with more Cannabidiol (the plant's major non-psychoactive 
component) than Tetrahydrocannabinol (the ingredient that makes users 
high) offer the most therapeutic potential.

Also, the war on drugs decimated many of the country's indigenous 
plants, so growers have turned to seeds with shorter flowering cycles 
procured from the Netherlands.

"The strains that are in Jamaica now have tended to become more like 
the Dutch ones: they're shorter, they're squatter, they grow quicker 
because the government down there has been quite diligent in trying 
to chop down people's crops," said Dowdle.

But despite its reputation, cannabis from Jamaica and other foreign 
countries may be a tough sell.

While a couple of licensed Canadian distributors are approved to 
import either seedlings or dried cannabis from Israel and the 
Netherlands, others are satisfied with the homegrown version.

"I don't personally have a lot of faith in the outdoor production for 
medicinal purposes," said Mark Gobuty, chief executive officer of the 
Ontario-based Peace Naturals Project.

"The regulator has put very high standards and conditions on us. We 
have to be free from mould, fungus, bacteria, and it's very 
difficult, the bacteria comes from pests, bugs.

"I'm sure as this evolves and matures and professionalism comes in 
that may be a possibility, but it's multiple years before anybody 
(new) can have a standardized quality that would be exportable and importable."

Jamaicans, meanwhile, are readying themselves for the possibilities. 
The government has said decriminalization could become a reality this 
year, along with approval for medicinal exports.

Jamaican-born, Toronto-based lawyer Courtney Betty, who has been 
consulting with the Ganja Future Growers and Producers Association, 
encouraged MedCann's Dowdle to attend the Jamaica conference in January.

Besides exports, Betty sees vast opportunities for medical tourism 
and research, from wellness spas to clinical trials.

"It's not just the concept of 'Hey, we've got really good marijuana, 
let's go out and sell it.' There could be local doctors conducting 
research . . . working with companies like MedCannAccess to see how 
they can benefit from the product that's in Jamaica, along with the 
work that's already been  done."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom