The Jamaican Government is stepping up its efforts to combat the illegal drug trade with the new Alternative Development Programme, which will offer black market cultivators a pathway to the legal industry.
The new initiative was established by the country's Cannabis Licensing Authority—after receiving approval from the Cabinet of Jamaica—and will initially function as a one-year pilot program.
During this time, the government intends to assist the transition of black market cannabis farmers into the legal industry, with the aim of increasing the earning potential of marginalised communities that have been overly affected by drug-related crime.
The pilot project will also allow for the creation of a new program aimed at increasing the supply of legal cannabis for retail and R&D purposes, while also helping to siphon further profits from the illicit market.
What we will be doing in 2020, is looking for more community groups of traditional growers that we will engage and provide the technical support for them to transition into the medicinal marijuana industry. Jamaican Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Floyd Green
The Cannabis Licensing Authority will also provide technical support, seeds and education to disadvantaged communities looking to engage in cultivation activities. The education program will be aimed to familiarising cannabis growers with the regulations and standards that are required by the pharmaceutical industry, as the government looks to significantly increase the scope of its legal cannabis market.
The Jamaican Government is confident in the success of the new as initiative, as the Alternate Development Program has already been tested with a group of cannabis farmers in Accompong, where it produced 44 pounds of medicinal-grade cannabis that was eventually sold on to pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Following the program's success in Accompong, the Cannabis Licensing Authority has confirmed that it now plans to roll out the same model across Jamaica after identifying suitable farmers and appropriate cultivation space.
The local cannabis industry is also hopeful that the introduction of the Alternative Development program will assist in encouraging potential investors who have become skittish about buying into Jamaica's legal marijuana market due to the government's repeated delays in finalising regulations.
If the government's transitional model proves successful, it could also work to significantly increase the amount of legally available product—which would lead to a sharp spike in tax revenue—thanks to the substantial spread of Jamaica's marijuana black market.
Although this should come as no surprise, as current estimates suggest that there is approximately 37,000 acres of illegally cultivated cannabis grown in Jamaica every year.
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