If there is one country directly associated with cannabis, it's Jamaica. It's well-known that cannabis is part of the island nation's culture and tradition. Bob Marley, Rastafarians, “Jamaican ganja” and Usain Bolt are probably the first four things that come to mind when most people hear the word "Jamaica."
To learn more about the Jamaican cannabis market, Benzinga chatted with Wayne Isaacs, the founder and CEO of Green Stripe Naturals Ltd, a Canada-based private company with commercial cannabis assets in Jamaica established in 2018.
Jamaican Ganja: A Treatment For Many Ailments
Green Stripe Naturals chose Jamaica as its main operating base because of the many industry advantages the island country offers, such as the cultivation of premium Jamaican cannabis.
The company has built a state-of-the-art cultivation on 20 acres of prime agricultural property that was once owned by the government for sugar cane cultivation.
“Our facility has been viewed by stakeholders in the industry in Jamaica and is seen as one of the most advanced cultivation sites in Jamaica,” Isaacs said.
Green Stripe Naturals, through its partnership with a local Jamaican company, is one of only a handful of companies on the island that has conditional approvals for all five commercial cannabis licenses: cultivation, processing, research and development, transportation and dispensary.
The company has worked hard to build strong relationships with with the government, medical and academic communities — and regulatory agencies, Isaacs said.
"We have assembled a team of highly skilled cultivators, processors, scientists and agriculturists who are all familiar with and have had extensive experience working in Jamaica with various Jamaican cannabis strains."
Green Stripe Naturals is establishing a portfolio of various properties and partnerships on different parts of the island for the purpose of utilizing different soil chemistry, cultivation methods, regional expertise and microclimates.
Jamaica is the only country that has a national cannabis brand of sorts, he said.
“Jamaican ganja is known worldwide for its potency and purity and its ability to serve as a method of treatment for various ailments.”
Jamaica's other advantages as a cannabis producer include the following, the CEO said:
- A low-cost, highly skilled agricultural labor force.
- An ideal day-night light cycle.
- Fertile soil for cannabis cultivation.
- Unique strains.
- Multigenerational cannabis farming experience.
- Comprehensive research on the efficiency of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
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An International Vision
“The legislative environment in Jamaica at this time permits commercial cannabis cultivation, processing, R&D, transportation and retailing for medicinal purposes only," Isaacs said.
Cannabis export legislation is in the draft phase in Jamaica, according to a September Marijuana Business Daily report.
The country's pot market can be divided into two areas: domestic and tourism.
The domestic market mostly serves millennials and middle-class adults who look for cannabis at a local licensed dispensary.
Many more traditional users of cannabis usually grow their own plants, as the law allows each household to grow up to five plants for personal use.
The Cannabis Culture
The Rastafarian faith treats cannabis as a sacrament, the “wisdom weed” or “holy herb.”
Smoking marijuana is part of the Rastafarian religious ritual, and they frown upon smoking it only to get “high.” Ganja should help the faith follower enter a trance-like state and enhance feelings of unity and spirituality.
Nevertheless, according to World Population Review’s most recent data, Rastafarians now represent only 1.1% of the entire Jamaican population of about 2.95 million.
"Even as much as everyone thinks that everyone smokes herb in Jamaica, not everyone does — and there are definitely people who look down upon it. But from my personal experience in Jamaica, the herb is a daily part of life. For Rastas, it comes from a spiritual place,” Bob Marley's eldest grandson Bambaata told Rolling Stone.
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Nina Zdinjak and Alex Oleinic contributed to this report.
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