Prime Minister Andrew Holness says that the Alternative Development Programme (ADP), which will provide an avenue for small farmers to benefit from the marijuana industry, will start by March.
The programme is intended to prevent and eliminate the illicit cultivation of marijuana and channel the process through legal system.
The pilot, which will begin in Accompong, St. Elizabeth, south west of here and Orange Hill in Westmoreland, west of the capital, will involve the farming of marijuana to provide raw material for processors.
“It is a real fear that as that (marijuana) industry emerges to become more corporatised, that the original ganja man, the original farmer, could very well be left out of the gains and the benefits, when you were the ones singing the praises and the benefits from how long,” Holness said.
“So this programme is of significant importance to ensure that small farmers, and, in fact, communities like Accompong, where there is certain discipline, a certain order, a certain social system that will ensure that it is not used in illicit ways, will benefit,” he added.
Speaking at a ceremony in commemoration of the 281st anniversary of the peace treaty signed by the Accompong Maroons with the British and to commemorate the birthday of legendary leader Cudjoe, Holness said he has received the commitment of the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Audley Shaw, that the programme will begin within the first quarter of this year.
“I know that you have actually started your part of the programme, but you are now awaiting the Government’s part of the programme to commence. I had a word with him (Shaw) and he gave me a commitment that the Alternative Development Programme for the small ganja farmers to produce for the legal trade will start,” he said.
The 1998 Action Plan, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, provides for the inclusion of a programme, such as the ADP, through specifically designed rural development measures consistent with sustained national economic growth.
The programme will be administered by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries with oversight from the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
Among the stipulations are the tagging of plants under a track and trace mechanism; sale of products through licensed processors; farmers’ alignment to community-based associations/organisations; accommodating special groups, such as the Maroons and Rastafarians; and that maximum cultivation should not exceed half an acre per farmer.