Ganja stakeholder doubts gov’t will use weed to fight COVID

January 19, 2022

Programme Director of the Ganja Growers and Producers Association of Jamaica, Paul Burke, says he is not optimistic that Jamaica will reap the benefits of using ganja to fight COVID-19.

Last week, a study coming out of Oregon State University in the US postulated that a pair of hemp compounds in the plant block a vital element in the virus' infection process. According to Burke, regardless of the potential benefits of this information, he is not hopeful that this will encourage the Government to loosen the regulations surrounding the ganja industry.

"I don't hold out hope, because there have been several studies about other benefits of cannabis for chronic pain, cancer treatment. I mean, if you go online there is so much information about credible studies and ganja. And it has not spurred us or our Ministry of Health to expeditiously reform the existing regulations, laws, etc," he said.

The Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus continues to tear through Jamaica, with over 18,000 confirmed positive cases since the start of the year and a positivity rate that is inching towards 70 per cent. Public hospitals have also closed their doors to non-emergency cases, as the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to increase, putting significant strain on the already-pressured public health sector during the ongoing shortage of healthcare workers. The country, as of Monday, has 114,986 positive cases, with 540 persons hospitalised. Some 2,551 persons have died from the virus.

Burke told THE STAR that while the information in the Oregon State University research could revolutionise the treatment of the virus, Jamaica cannot compete with the international hemp market.

"We are not a 'growing' country, and I don't think it is economical for us to compete with other countries who are growing hemp. But certainly, the research indicates that they have tried it and it has been effective. We have had stories, long before, of people in Jamaica and people abroad who have been using cannabis to treat coronavirus ... not documented, not part of a formal research; but we have many credible stories of how people, unvaccinated, have used cannabis," he said.

Burke says the local ganja industry is one of the most regulated in the country and has not seen significant growth due to the strict regulations.

"I accept that the industry must be regulated, but in Jamaica, it is grossly over-regulated. It is more regulated to grow ganja than to have firearms. It is more regulated to grow ganja than to store hazardous chemicals. It is more regulated than storing explosives. It is the most regulated industry outside of the airline industry regulations in Jamaica, and, perhaps, the banks," he said.

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