Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP via Getty Images
Jamaica is facing a shortage of its signature crop due to a confluence of particularly harsh drought and COVID restrictions.
The Jamaican weed industry could be the next COVID casualty.
According to a report from The Associated Press, cannabis farmers on the Caribbean island have taken a historic hit to their crops in recent months. Cultivators are citing a number of causes for the shortage, including a particularly active hurricane season, followed by a harsh drought, which devastated yields across the island. Adding to the injury, a 6pm COVID curfew is keeping farmers from tending their fields at night, a crucial component of producing quality herb. One farmer told the AP this year’s yields were clocking in at less than half of those from prior seasons.
COVID is also keeping weed-seeking tourists, typically a reliable source of income for farmers, off the island. Which has lead to an uptick in local consumption and a deepening of the plant’s scarcity.
Jamaica established a legal medical market for cannabis in 2015. However, the country’s Cannabis Licensing Authority has set standards for cultivation many locals consider to be overly restrictive. And traditional small operations are dropping out altogether as a result, claiming authorities are coming in and destroying their “good ganja fields,” while they struggle to afford compliance with the requirements of the legal market. To date, Jamaica’s CLA has authorized only 29 cultivators and 73 total licenses for transportation and processing throughout the country, which is driving up the cost of cannabis at dispensaries to as much as 10x the black market’s tag and pricing locals out of participating in the legal market.
It’s unclear how the Jamaican government intends to address the shortage of cannabis across the island. But it has yet to even acknowledge the deficit. And that isn’t exactly a good start.