The first attempts to import cannabis extracts to the Cayman Islands are under way, following approval of the products for medical purposes in November.
While many questions on the import process remain to be answered, local businessman Prentice Panton said he is working with developers in Jamaica to process and test extracts for eventual use in Cayman.
Under November’s amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Law, medical doctors may now prescribe cannabis extracts or tinctures for therapeutic purposes. The law does not allow for production of the products in Cayman, pushing advocates like Mr. Panton to seek supplies from abroad.
“If we were allowed to grow here, there are a number of other opportunities for employment and potential for export ourselves, because there are countries that can legally import,” Mr. Panton said.
Jamaica moved to decriminalize cannabis in 2015 and has set up a tiered licensing system that allows for cultivation, processing, transport, retail, and research and development.
The legality of Jamaican production remains uncertain, however. Jamaica’s Cannabis Licensing Authority has yet to issue approval to any growing operations and has not established terms for export.
The authority said licensing and export regulations are in development, but there is no time line for those steps.
The University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica, has begun testing operations. Mr. Panton said he is working with researchers there to test products and prepare them for branding.
Cayman’s law has not set a tetrahydrocannabinol content limit for such products. THC is the psychoactive component found in cannabis. Researchers will also be looking at cannabidiol or CBD, a non-psychoactive component often emphasized in medicinal applications.
Mr. Panton said he is also looking at Canada as a sourcing option, but has not begun working to import from there.
Dennie Warren, who campaigned for the approval of medical cannabis in Cayman, said foreign sourcing could create issues in product transparency and safety.
He advocated for legal, organic growing in Cayman.
“I think that we should have allowed it to be grown here, because that would solve the problem of sourcing it. The problem is that when you are dependent on other countries for a source, you’re limited by whatever it is their legislation says,” Mr. Warren said.