Canna Care employee John Hough waters young marijuana plants at the medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento, Calif.
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Jamaica’s age-old quest to begin legally exporting large amounts of marijuana for medicinal purposes seemed to be closer than ever to reality with reports this week of a major partnership between a U.S. company which wants to use weed from the island as a base for its medical products.

Officials said that the Colorado-based firm of Timeless Herbal Care, one of the largest and well known players in the industry, is planning to team up with Jamaica’s world class marijuana growers to obtain supplies from the island. The project is being billed as one with a potential to rake in about $100 million over 10 years and will be one of the first efforts by an American company to source such large amounts of weed for commercial purposes from foreign soil.

The announcement which was carried in the Jamaica Observer Newspaper this week comes as regional leaders who had two years ago put the world on notice that they were ready to review criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession continue to dither on the way forward.

The leaders had also asked for a brief from experts on the merits and demerits of developing a regulated medical marijuana sector to allow member states to cash in on one of the world’s newest cash cow industries.

Since then, Jamaican legislators have approved new laws allowing for legal possession of no more than two ounces of the drug for personal purposes and authorities are throwing their full weight behind the development of the industry.

Several Jamaican scientists have also moved to patent key research in this area as the island of nearly three million people raises its profile as a leading operator in the medical marijuana sector globally.

“Timeless Herbal Care planted the first legal cannabis plant alongside the Jamaican Minister of Justice Mark J Golding on April 20, 2015 on the University of the West Indies campus. Timeless has been there from the very beginning and we will continue to play a leading role in establishing Jamaica as the medical marijuana hub of the world,” the announcement said.

Most other CARICOM member states have yet to even decide on how to treat small amounts of marijuana for personal use and are still jailing nationals but Jamaica says it is pressing ahead while the others take their merry old time in coming up with a harmonized strategy to deal with a major revenue earning opportunity.

Additionally, with the decriminalization of possession of less than two ounces, growers see a ready legal market for their product as more than a million Americans and hundreds of thousands of nationals from other countries descend on the island each year and could use the narcotic openly without fear of arrest or prosecution.

Colorado was the first American state to legalize ganja. Other states and even foreign countries have been moving to copy its template as authorities recognize the potential to develop a billion dollar industry.

“Jamaica had 2.8 million tourist visits in 2014, representing an increase of eight per cent over the previous year. Some 1.4 million Americans are projected to journey to Jamaica in 2015, with over 28,000 eligible to participate in the newly legal Jamaican medical cannabis program. One of the attractions for travelers is the reciprocity offered in Jamaica for medical marijuana cardholders,” the announcement said.

In this Aug. 29, 2013, file photo, farmer Breezy shows off the distinctive leaves of a marijuana plant during a tour of his plantation in Jamaica’s central mountain town of Nine Mile.
Associated Press / David McFadden, File

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