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Ganja businesses are growing in Jamaica

BY BALFORD HENRY

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Bud Tenders all in a row lined up right before doors were opened for the first time at Epican Kingston’s first Cannabis store last July.

(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — Despite frequent criticisms of Jamaica’s slow progress to optimum use of its cannabis (ganja) crops, truth be told the industry is progressing as quickly as conditions will allow.

A good example of what has been happening in the market is that the locally owned and operated Environmentally Processing Inter-national Cannabis (Epican) Jamaica which became the first company to be licensed for cultivation by the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) in October, 2017, has also become the first to renew its licences.

The company officially opened its first retail outlet, the Epican Jamaica Cannabis Store at the Market Place in Kingston in July, 2018, the first such store in Kingston.

Epican was founded and is co-owned by brothers Dwayne and Karibe McKenzie. Dwayne is the company’s president, and Karibe the chief executive officer (CEO).

The brothers started their journey in Meadowbrook, St Andrew, where they attended Meadowbrook High. They moved to Baltimore, Maryland, in the United States, where they had their first experiences with racism, which led them to move to the continent of Africa, moving between Ethiopia, Ghana and the Gold Coast.

They became immersed in the West African culture and, through their interaction with the local communities, they learnt a lot about the local herbs cultivation and their organic uses.

They opened a retail store in Baltimore and travelled to and from West Africa, taking back African treasures to the American city seeking to enhance the awareness of African culture among the African-American population through the sale of the artifacts.

However, it was while they were in Florida that they heard about Jamaica’s move towards the decriminalisation of ganja, a development which encouraged them to return home and apply to the CLA.

Anxious to get involved in the local industry, despite their reservations about competing with wealthy investors for a share of the market, they went to California to absorb the systems and processes involved.

They surrounded themselves with experts who could give them an inside edge on the processes, but remained passionate so that the grass-roots farmers should also be involved in the emerging industry.

Jamaicans who were probably not aware of the Epican store in Kingston, might have come across them in the Herb Cure, which they sponsored at Rebel Salute in St Ann last month. The designated cannabis-use area allowed for use of the drug for medicinal, recreational and therapeutic use of the drug.

“What we have, as Jamaicans, is the love of the plant, which is a very spiritual plant and an industry with that fundamental love for the plant; a love so deep and which has always been there, even under persecution,” he noted.

Since October 2017 when they received their cultivating licence and started cultivating in Guava Ridge, rural St Andrew, Epican has been making strides in mapping a route for the development of the country’s fledgling medicinal cannabis Industry.

“One month later, we went on to receive a processing licence to do the extraction and the retail licence for the St Andrew location, to sell the raw cannabis and also to sell oils and whatever formulations of that, once approved by the Ministry of Health,” said Karibe.

The success of the retail outlet at Market Place, off Constant Spring Road in St Andrew, has prompted the Epican team to plan opening another branch in Montego Bay. Plans are also in the making for a retail outlet in Negril, Westmoreland.

Karibe says that, although the CLA has come for a lot of criticism for the slow development of the local industry, his company is a living example of what diligence and paying attention to details of the process can do.

The CLA has already granted 29 licences from close to 600 applications and, despite the slow pace of approval, the fact is that the CLA must ensure that licencees observe certain provisions.

“We realised that the legislation was new to everyone and a new governing body had been created. They will get better as time goes by,” he commented.

He noted that the CLA has been given legislation and they have to perform within certain guidelines, and believes that they are doing a tremendous job.

“For anyone currently in the process, being asked for information back and forth, know that it is a tedious process,” he added.

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