Dr Cliff Riley, executive director of the Scientific Research Council, says that while Jamaica likes to boast about its high-quality marijuana, popularly referred to as ganja, there is no precise or settled definition of what that means.
Riley also pointed to a lack of adequate research around marijuana, some of which, he noted is the legacy of cultural practices, but also a basic lack of trust between parties.
The sector needs a change in attitude and a collective drive towards real standards, he told a medical cannabis symposium hosted by the University of Technology Jamaica, July 5-6.
“We need to standardise it. We need to understand it,” declared Riley at the opening of JAMECANN 2018 at the UTech campus in Kingston.
“We can’t keep telling the world that we have the best ganja. Best ganja for what? Is it the best ganja for smoking? Is it the best smelling ganja? Is it the best ganja for treating autism or for treating glaucoma or asthma? We need to understand what we are talking about and how to use it accordingly,” he said.
Jamaica has slowly been decriminalising ganja, mainly for research and medicinal purposes. The industry is overseen by the Cannabis Licensing Authority, which is the issuing agency for permits for cultivation, retailing of products and other activity.
Before those efforts, activity around ganja was all underground, even though it was often smoked at public functions and some entrepreneurs were known to distribute ganja-based products.
Riley charged that the Jamaican ganja industry continues to be characterised by persons operating on the periphery, and there as an urgent need to dispense with the notion that ‘herb is the healing of the nation’.
“We’re looking at an industry driven primarily by money. Don’t fool yourselves, it is not only about health or healing the nation – it is about business,” he said.
But he also noted that Jamaicans are only earning a fraction of what the drug is fetching in the United States.