By Tyler Newman
Welcome to Jamaica. Need a medical cannabis card? The country’s newly established Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) is examining a proposal that would let you pick one up just as soon as you land on the island.
“The thought is that if you are coming out of the airport, there is a kiosk that you can go to,” Hyacinth Lightbourne, CLA’s chairman, told the Jamaica Gleaner. “So basically whoever is coming out of immigration can go to that desk and register.”
The proposed system would allow new arrivals to self-declare a need for medical cannabis and obtain documentation to register for the country’s medical program. The airport kiosks would be staffed by individuals trained in cannabis-related care and well versed in the country’s regulatory policies.
The proposal is still in its planning stages. “We’ve had our first meeting, and my thinking is that we’d need a few weeks to turn out an appropriate document,” said the chairman of CLA’s medical committee, Dr. Winston De La Haye.
Jamaica legalized cannabis for medical, scientific, and religious use in February. The CLA’s cannabis-kiosk plan is an important first step in creating a platform for medicinal distribution.
Under the new scheme, adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis has been decriminalized, though law enforcement can still issue citations for possession, which carry a roughly $5 fine. Rastafaris and medicinal patients are exempt from that penalty. All public consumption remains illegal.
Expanding the country’s medical cannabis market could bring significant revenue to the island. CLA member Delano Seiveright pointed to the economic benefits legal cannabis offered U.S. states and Canada.
“In Colorado last year, even though it is recreational and medicinal, they sold about USD $1 billion worth of marijuana and collected $135 million in taxes for the state alone with a population of five million plus,” he said. Canada’s market currently takes in USD $100 million from its medical system, he added, but could rise as high as $5 billion once the country’s adult-use program is online. “You can see the potential it presents,” Seiveright said.
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