What potential does the medical cannabis industry in Jamaica?
It has tremendous potential and the opportunity to unlock substantive economic growth and productivity within the nation's work force. When you look at some the statistics coming out of places like Colorado, which have seen welcomed bumps to their tax income, even more impressive is the economic stimulation throughout the industry's entire ecosystem; the small businesses and job creation that help people buy new cars, eat out more often in restaurants, spend more at the supermarket, take classes, and so forth. The economic boost is significant, particularly when you look at our population of 2.9 million people; you realize the great potential on a per capita basis. The potential economic impact is quite significant and makes it that much more urgent for the proverbial powers that be to streamline some of the red tape and bureaucracy that has been an impediment to the growth and expansion in the industry in Jamaica.
What is your greater vision, and how has it unfolded?
CanEx aimed from inception to be a platform that brings together like-minded individuals and industry leaders from across the globe to advance the industry. Jamaica is the cultural and symbolic epicenter of cannabis and ganja, so it's quite an appropriate location to bring people from around the world to discuss the evolution of the industry. Additionally, CanEx strives to play a globally significant role, which is why we have always had such an international array of speakers and participants. Thus, we will continue to build the conference and push especially in the Caribbean and LATAM to establish ourselves as a global platform to bring stakeholders together to exchange ideas, build relationships and pursue ideas that will advance the industry.
How does Jamaica's cannabis industry measure in comparison to the wider region, and how can it compete with larger producers?
At present, Jamaica is a leader in the Caribbean and, in some respects, even in Latin and South America when it comes to the evolution of its market. The 'Jamaica' brand, along with a competitive cost structure, represent tremendous assets that can be leveraged via flower and oil, finished products, and the many ancillary opportunities from medical and lifestyle tourism to research, education, and nutraceuticals.
Amidst all the hype, is there still room for new players in the sector?
Many players are emerging in the industry across a range of different verticals. However, there is still tremendous room for growth and participation. It is certainly a competitive landscape, and you must be prepared to compete in a global marketplace that's moving at warp speed. So, in many instances, even while you are still tweaking your plan, you have to be prepared to pull the trigger and move forward. Jamaica has tremendous potential within this space, but the industry must move much faster to take advantage of its innate strengths to fully benefit.
Does the sudden attractiveness of medical marijuana represent a risk for small farmers?
For small farmers, like everyone else, the legal medical industry holds exceptional opportunity. The reality is that the legal cannabis industry is highly regulated and accordingly, there are a number of factors that play a key role in driving success. These go way beyond an innate passion or experience in growing in the more traditional sense. The new landscape requires enhanced skills and resources to succeed, and additional considerations must be taken into account to be successful growing a plant that is subject to all the different SOPs, regulations, and parameters that define acceptable and marketable use in a global market place.
What are your goals and strategy for the coming year?
We expect to drive more global participation through our exhibitors and attendees. In 2018, we had attendees from 23 countries and expect that number to increase, particularly given our efforts and partnerships in the Caribbean and LATAM markets. We have also taken steps to expand our footprint globally. Our goal remains to create a high-value global conference that takes place in Jamaica so that we can bring the best and brightest of the industry together, from business leadership to medicine, science, legal, and regulatory expertise.