Development of marijuana industry urgent, says Jamaican finance minister

Minister of finance and the public service, Audley Shaw, says Jamaica must move with urgency to develop a medical marijuana industry.

He pointed out that exploiting the benefits of marijuana is “not about smoking a spliff” or “walking around with two ounces of the weed”.

“This is about building an industry of value-added products,” the minister emphasised.

Shaw was opening the 2016/17 Budget Debate in the House on May 12. His presentation was made under the theme: ‘Partnership for Economic Growth’.

Citing other countries that have benefited from using the plant, the minister contended that Jamaica is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in the medical marijuana industry that can create wealth for the country.

Shaw noted that, in the United States alone, the legal marijuana market is predicted to rise from US$6.7 billion this year to US$21.8 billion by 2020. He pointed out as well that Canada has built a major industry that may become fully legalised next year.

The minister added that the Dutch ministry of health is exporting medical marijuana to Canada, Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic. In addition, Israel has over 12,000 medical marijuana patients and is leading the world in research on medical marijuana.

Shaw said developing a medical marijuana industry for the country will involve pursuing research at the universities to create medicines that can help people dealing with major illnesses, such as diabetes, epilepsy and others.

“One simple breakthrough in any of these areas will contribute billions of dollars to our economy. This is about turning wasted land into growing hemp products which contain no psychoactive properties and can be used for food, textiles, building materials and many others,” he said.

The minister explained that the aim is to build an industry in Jamaica where value-added products will be processed and manufactured locally.

“This is about an opportunity for small farmers who will now earn from land which is sitting idle. This is about our tourism industry where Jamaica will be positioned as the medical tourism capital, bringing health and wellness to the world,” he said.

In the meantime, Shaw cited the pioneering role of Jamaican scientists in the development of Canasol for glaucoma and Asthmasol for asthma.

Caribbean News Now