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Jamaica is gearing up for international cannabis exports

Jamaica’s decriminalisation of ganja in 2015 brought with it many expectations, one being the ability to export its hi-grade herb.

With a relatively small marketplace (a 2016-2017 Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey says 17 per cent of Jamaicans use ganja), investors are eager to expand their market base beyond Jamaica’s 2.9 million citizens.

Given Jamaica’s ideal growing conditions and its reputation for producing high-quality varieties, with potentially unique medicinal applications, a licensed producer would have a field of endless opportunities if it developed an international market for its strain. Intellectual property rights protecting that strain would also allow the producer to maximise its earning potential.

That is the direction in which Israel is heading. The country’s pioneering work in cannabis research and technology and its rich IP bank will give it an advantage in the global marketplace. In December 2018, the Israeli Government announced that it had passed a bill allowing for the export of medical cannabis. This move will most likely increase investment in the country’s rich cannabis industry resources and will bring in US$265 million in taxes annually.

EXPORT LEGISLATION

Locally, the Cannabis Licensing Authority is currently fine-tuning the details for an export-import legislative framework, which will also require amendments to the Health Act and the Food and Drugs Act.

But that is just the beginning.

Even with legislation in place governing the trade of cannabis, Jamaica’s manufacturing standards must match those of the importing nation.

This aspect is being led by the Bureau of Standards Jamaica Cannabis Technical Committee. Chairman Rory Liu says the committee is pulling best practices from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) agriculture regulations and international standards bodies such as FOCUS and ASTM International and will be “modifying them for Jamaica for all the producers to follow”.

Liu, who is also a cannabis entrepreneur, says the BSJ’s normal timeline for establishing manufacturing standards is usually 12-18 months but that the committee is pushing to have them completed much sooner. The process is a multiagency collaborative effort with agriculture, medical and scientific expertise and he said that the recommendations would also be made available for public consensus.

“The standards we are creating are a baseline but internationally recognised,” said Liu. “Individual companies seeking to export will still have to follow the importing country’s recommendations.”

This is quite likely where local companies will face their biggest challenge. Trading blocs such as the European Union and the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement are guided by their own set of standards for pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products, the classification for which medical ganja would apply. A local company hoping to do trade with the Netherlands, for example, would have to meet EU-GMP (good manufacturing practices) specifications, which provides guidance for manufacturing, testing, and quality assurance. Generally, these standards are a rigorous and costly process.

EXCEPTIONS

On September 27, 2018, Timeless Herbal Care made headlines when it announced that it would be the first Jamaican company to legally export cannabis, albeit without the requisite laws in place. Timeless, with the help of the Government, successfully negotiated with Health Canada to export its cannabis oil for a detailed analysis of its chemical profile and potential medicinal applications.

Richard ‘Dickie’ Crawford, a consultant with Timeless, said that the company had to first send evidence of the oil’s purity, which was analysed by the Caribbean Toxicology Unit at the University of the West Indies.

“CARITOX labs did an initial analysis, and the results showed there were no contaminants and the product was of good quality, and Health Canada was satisfied with that,” said Crawford.

The process also included acquiring an import permit from Health Canada and an export permit from Jamaica’s Ministry of Health.

“That export from Timeless,” Crawford added, “has paved the way for other processors in Jamaica to use that platform later on to trade with Canada.”

Crawford, like many industry insiders, admits that the global cannabis industry is on the verge of exploding. US lawmakers have already tabled a bill for the federal legalisation of ganja, which is seen as the key strategic move that will trigger not only similar legislation in other countries, but have a knock-on effect on the banking and pharmaceutical sectors.

UNCONVENTIONS

Another consideration in the international trade of cannabis are the UN drug control conventions, namely the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.

Most countries are signatories to these treaties.

A developed nation such as Canada can use its diplomatic leverage to navigate international law as seen with its decision to legalise recreational marijuana use last October. And while the WHO recently made a recommendation for the reclassification of ganja in international laws to reflect its true medicinal applications, developing nations like Jamaica must tread carefully while the plant remains a controlled substance.

There is also a quota system governed by the United Nations’ International Narcotics Control Board that puts a cap on the amount of ganja a country can produce in a calendar year.

The solution to this for small Caribbean nations is a unified approach, according to the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana. In its report, published last June, the Commission said,

“There is need for CARICOM to have a strong, unified position if it is to lend a persuasive voice to the calls for much needed reform of the relevant conventions. The long history and cultural significance of cannabis in the region makes CARICOM a potentially authoritative player in this process but only if it proceeds as a powerful, unified, regional bloc of states … at the very least, how to create exceptions, in the law, is needed.”

One local investor, who preferred not to be identified, said his best-case scenario is a five- to 10-year period for Jamaica to be a qualified exporter of medical ganja.

With no less than three new herb houses scheduled to be opened in the coming months, and several more in waiting, this may very well mean an insanely competitive local market.

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Proposed 350 Million Euro Investment for Cannabis Production in Greece

A total of thirty separate proposed foreign investments in medical and industrial cannabis production have been submitted to Greek authorities for approval, it was revealed on Sunday.

According to sources quoted by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) the total proposed investments exceed 350 million euros.

Of the known proposals, two have been approved, two rejected and the remaining twenty-six are still pending.

According to the same sources, strong investment interest has been expressed by foreign investors hailing from such countries as Israel, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Belgium, France and Russia.

The size of the proposed investments,  indicates that Greece could emerge as an international hub for the production and processing of medical and industrial cannabis, market analysts said. They project that the investments could lead to the creation of an additional 1,436 new jobs in Greece.

Of the thirty applications for a license to grow and process medical cannabis so far, Greek authorities have approved those submitted by Biomecann SA and Bioprocann SA last November. Those two projects together represent a total investment of 22 million euros.

The two rejected applications were filed by a company which is no longer in operation and a company which didn’t fill in the required questionnaire.

Of the remaining applications, twelve were submitted before November 2018. The remaining fourteen proposals — amounting to an estimated investment of 159.1 million euros — have been submitted since that time.

According to the AMNA’s sources, twelve proposals are considered “more mature” and in some cases authorities have asked for additional supporting documents. Sixteen applications are currently in the process of collecting the necessary supporting documents. Seven also include land-use certifications.

The twenty-six proposals would require growing acreage covering more than 110 hectares.

“Over the next few years we will have a very large production of both types, medical and industrial, and we will have effectively created a parallel and very important pharmaceutical industry in Greece,” the sources stated to AMNA.

According to analysts, the new agricultural sector could potentially bring investments worth 1.5 billion euros to Greece in the near future, and eventually generate approximately 7,000 jobs.

Based on figures released by the Agricultural Ministry, areas for which proposals have been submitted include Corinth, where one has been approved and one is pending and Thiva, where seven have been approved.

The Kilkis area has seen five approvals; Serres has had one proposal passed and Attica two. Kastoria will see three projects, and there will be one each for Sparti, Ileia, Messolonghi, Magnisia, Halkidiki, Fokida, Preveza and Larisa.

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Congress urged to allow legal marijuana businesses access to bank services

Bank officials and others urged Congress on Wednesday to fully open the doors of the U.S. banking system to the state-legal marijuana industry, a change supporters say would reduce the risk of crime and resolve a litany of challenges for cannabis companies, from paying taxes to getting a loan.

California Treasurer Fiona Ma, whose state is home to the nation’s largest legal marijuana market, called the proposed so-called SAFE Banking Act a critical step for the rapidly expanding industry.

Gregory Deckard, who spoke on behalf of the Independent Community Bankers of America, said the cloud of legal uncertainty was inhibiting access to banks while creating safety hazards for businesses.

The proposal, he said, “would offer the needed clarity” for more financial institutions to welcome the marijuana industry as customers.

But others had concerns.

Republican Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri said the proposal would create confusion while marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

With the banking legislation, “we are putting the cart before the horse,” he said.

Legalization advocates have reason to celebrate that the hearing simply took place at all before the Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions Subcommittee. The proposal, or similar versions, have languished for years.

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The European Parliament Passes Medical Cannabis Resolution

Step by step, nation by nation, the cannabis community is making great progress around the world. Some milestones, such as Canada becoming the first G7 nation to end prohibition, are obviously huge landmarks. Other achievements might fly under the radar to most, but will be revealed as greatly influential when we look back upon them. This week, one under-the-radar success occurred as the European Parliament passed a resolution urging member states to move forward with sensible medical cannabis programs, as Forbes covered:

Following reports about the World Health Organization (WHO) recommending a rescheduling of cannabis and several of its key components under international drug treaties, the European Parliament voted on Wednesday on a resolution that would help advance medical cannabis in the countries that form the European Union.

While non-binding, the resolution seeks to incentivize European nations to increase access to medical marijuana, prioritizing scientific research and clinical studies. Same as the WHO’s recommendation, the European Parliament’s resolution shows how wide support for cannabis legalization is, but does not change any actual laws on the international or local levels.

“The EU Parliament is just the latest voice to recognize the medical value of cannabis and the benefits of regulation over prohibition,” Tom Angell, Forbes contributor and publisher of Marijuana Moment, told me. ”I’m hopeful that the growing chorus in favor of reform will spur action by nations to change their policies and improve access for patients who need this medicine.”

To a lot of people, especially those of us in the United States, a nonbinding resolution may not seem like a big deal, but this parliamentary action will very likely have big consequences in the coming years. Europe is clearly moving towards embracing more progressive cannabis reforms, and the words from this resolution, such as calling “on Member States to ensure sufficient availability of cannabis-based medicines that cater for actual needs, either by means of production in accordance with their national medical standards or perhaps through imports that comply with their national requirements for cannabis-based medicines,” will reverberate in debates across the continent. Additionally, this resolution increases the odds that the European Parliament will take a similar approach on adult-use cannabis in the future.

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ECB’s Coeure opens door to new cash boost for banks

  • Banks in Italy and other southern European countries in particular could face funding problems.
  • European Central Bank board member Benoit Coeure said the ECB was discussing the idea of issuing new multi-year cheap loans.
  • The euro fell on the comments.

European Central Bank board member Benoit Coeure said the ECB was discussing the idea of issuing new multi-year cheap loans to banks, which in some countries face a funding cliff-edge next year when previous loans must be repaid.

Banks in Italy and other southern European countries in particular could face funding problems as the ECB’s most recent Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operation (TLTRO) nears its repayment date in 2020.

Speaking in New York, Coeure said a new TLTRO was possible and there might be scope for it but such an operation should serve “a purpose”, likely meaning it should help the ECB achieve its inflation target rather than simply helping banks.

“It is possible, we are discussing it,” Coeure said. “But we want to be sure that it serves a…purpose.”

He later added: “There might be scope for another TLTRO.”

His were the clearest remarks to date on the subject. ECB President Mario Draghi was non-committal at his latest press conference, on Jan 24, simply saying the issue had been raised by some policymakers at that day’s meeting.

Coeure, seen as one of Draghi’s possible successors when the latter’s term runs out on Oct 31, added that the euro zone’s recent economic slowdown is more pronounced than earlier expected, suggesting that the path of inflation will also be more shallow.

The ECB will next meet on March 7 and policymakers are widely expected to slash growth and inflation projections as the euro zone is suffering its biggest slowdown in half a decade.

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