Producing hemp could help Jamaica

This is an amended version of an article that I wrote in April 2008 and presented to members of the government and opposition at the Diaspora Conference.

I have been thinking about ways to address some of the challenges our
beautiful country faces. One idea that I propose is based on what Canada has managed to do by legalizing and regulating a hemp industry.

Hemp is often confused with marijuana, both members of the Cannabis family of plants, but distant cousins. Hemp is one of the most useful plants, the seed of which are used to produce healthy food, nutraceuticals, and bodycare products and the stalk is starting to be processed into high performance fibre products, such as paper, textiles, biocomposites and building materials.

Canada has been growing industrial hemp seed since 1998 and a vibrant,
regulated industry has developed, supplying domestic and international
markets, the USA being the single largest importer of hemp from Canada. Jamaica’s climate has proven to be ideal for the cultivation of Cannabis and should be a comparative advantage in comparison to the Canadian climate. Hemp is a fast-growing, year-round crop that leads to the production of environmentally friendly products.

Jamaica has a better climate than Canada, more days of sunshine, massive amounts of available land, cheaper labour and close proximity to the USA.

There are obviously many Jamaican farmers who grow ganja in order to
survive so they possess the required knowledge to grow hemp and this new industry would allow them to become part of the formal economy. This new industry is positive for the Jamaican economy in a number of other ways:

1.  Employment – This industry creates jobs on farms, the distribution chain and the marketing chain. Companies founded to market the crop internationally will also generate jobs. The Democratic Presidential candidates in the USA have recently been talking about “green collar”jobs, jobs in renewable industries. A hemp industry in Jamaica creates green collar jobs for Jamaicans.

2.  Tax revenue – Licensing fees and income tax on companies and employees will generate real tax revenue for the Government. Jamaica has a severe problem collecting taxes and this industry helps to increase taxes collected from businesses and individuals.

3.  Export growth – Jamaica suffers from a trade deficit, importing more than it exports. This trade imbalance is not desirable and a vibrant hemp industry will provide a new export crop that generates foreign exchange and reduces our deficit.

4.  Economic growth – Jamaica can either reduce spending or grow the economy in order to climb out of the hole it is currently in. The latest budget increases spending (partly because of inflation of course) and while the Government will do its best to reduce expenditures by divesting some assets, growing the economy is still the best option. Growth is fuelled by productivity and industries.

Canada licensed about 3,259 hectares (8.050 acres) of hemp production in 2008.

The USA has weighed in on calls to legalize ganja in Jamaica but I have yet to see a hemp proposal put forth. Under Canadian regulations, hemp is classified as having less than 0.3% THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, making it unsuitable for drug and therapeutic purposes. If Canada could manage to facilitate a hemp industry, surely Jamaica should face no objection from the USA.

I am asking the Government of Jamaica to undertake a serious study of
the potential for a hemp industry in Jamaica based on Canada’s system.

Posted by
David Mullings

11 comments so far
francineb Posted by: francineb January 11, 2010 at 5:20 pm