Pubdate: Mon, 09 Jun 2014
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2014 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Aileen Torres-Bennett
Page: 5A
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Ganja Association Urges Country to Capitalize on Crops

KINGSTON, JAMAICA This tourist mecca may soon be known as the 
Colorado of the Caribbean.

Given the ready availability of "ganja" as the locals call it, 
outsiders may assume marijuana is legal in Jamaica, but it's not ... yet.

Encouraged by legalized marijuana in Colorado, Washington state and 
Uruguay - the first country to legalize and regulate the weed - 
Jamaican farmers and some politicians want to capitalize on what 
already is a homegrown industry with an international brand.

Dreadlocked Rastafarians and farmers gathered in Kingston in April to 
launch Jamaica's Ganja Future Growers and Producers Association. The 
only thing missing was the smoke. They listened to speakers from 
Jamaica, the USA and Canada talk about the benefits of the drug.

"The time has come to provide an opportunity for Jamaicans to benefit 
from the marijuana industry," said Angela Brown Burke, Kingston's 
mayor and a Parliament senator. Her husband, Paul Burke, is program 
director of the ganja association and is general secretary of the 
PNP, the government's ruling party.

The motivation behind the legal pot drive is largely economic. 
Jamaica's economy has suffered from slow growth, high unemployment 
(now 13.4%) and high debt for the past two decades, according to the 
World Bank.

If ganja is decriminalized, "the impact (on) tourist arrivals would 
be enormous," Archibald McDonald, head of the Cannabis Commercial and 
Medicinal Research Task Force, said, adding he did not speak for the 
task force. "This will provide the growth in GDP that we need so badly."

The Jamaica Cannabis Conference, organized by the task force and held 
in late May, released a statement declaring industry regulations 
could be in place by the end of September. It warned, "Wake up 
Jamaica, our opportunities are slipping away."

Some could do without such opportunity. "We can do other stuff 
without marijuana to increase our tourist arrivals" such as build 
water parks, said Owayne Bolton, a manager at the Hilton in Montego Bay.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom