The cannabis industry in Jamaica is set to implement better quality control standards, as regulators eye international export opportunities.
Revising cultivation and processing rules
According to an announcement made on Wednesday, the regulators have launched significant revisions of cannabis cultivation and processing rules for the first time since Jamaica legalized medical cannabis in 2015. Following this, the Jamaica Bureau of Standards already released new guidelines for medical, scientific, and therapeutic uses to match the standards established by ASTM International, a standards body.
So far, Jamaica has not had active control standards, most of which have been largely nonexistent. Cannabis farmers have been relying on traditional cultivation methods, which do not meet rigorous quality control standards available in other cannabis markets.
This exercise is a part of a major revamp of cannabis regulations. It is led by the country’s Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries. The move seeks to instill international best practices to the local cannabis industry in a bid to expand its market via exports.
While we are a locally-based industry, we are globally focused. We are focused on exporting our cannabis flower and cannabis products to the entire world. We are quite clear that for us to have a seamless system of exports, people must be assured that the cannabis that is grown here and the products produced here are safe and are of the highest standards, said Floyd Green, the Minister of State in the Ministry.
Barrier to unlock market potential
According to Green, quality control, consistency, and compliance issues have been a major hindrance to unlock Jamaica’s cannabis market potential. He noted that the regulatory shortcomings have been one of the major concerns for Jamaican cannabis industry stakeholders. The new rules will enable the industry to participate in the global market.
The new guidelines also come shortly after a long period of debate regarding the future of Jamaica’s formal commercial export regulations. Recently, major players in the cannabis industry such as Aurora and Green Organic Dutchman stopped doing business with Jamaica due to profitability concerns.
Jamaica’s new “cannabis standards” aim to integrate four ASTM International standards to cover various practices such as plant and product analysis and handling. The standards will operate along with three new locally developed standards for cultivation, processing, packaging, handling, and labeling.
Machel Emmanuel is the Vice Chair of the Cannabis Technical Committee founded by the Bureau of Standards two years ago. He is also a post-doctoral researcher on cannabis topic at the University of the West Indies, Mona.
Speaking about the move, he said the decision to work according to ASTM International guidelines was based on a collaborative approach.
An approach such as this is in the best interest of small states like Jamaica. It allows us to have some influence over [ASTM] proceedings and by extension influence over international cannabis standards.
In June, the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture & Fisheries Audley Shaw, while responding to criticisms from small farmers, suggested revisions to the regulatory framework that govern the cannabis industry. Audley said the revisions were critical to diversification in the sector.