Jamaica’s greatest crisis is human underdevelopment

Says finance minister at Toronto meeting

By Lincoln DePradine

Audley Shaw

Jamaica’s “biggest crisis’’ is not lack of economic growth, says the country’s finance minister Audley Shaw.

Nor is it crime which  claimed 167 lives in August alone and is a major problem, Shaw told a Toronto audience on Sunday.

“Our truly greatest crisis is a crisis of human underdevelopment,’’ he said. “We can’t get back to growth and we cannot solve crime unless we develop our people.’’

Shaw made the comments while delivering a brief keynote address at a breakfast meeting of Timeless Herbal Care Limited (THCL), a nutraceutical and pharmaceutical company involved in growing medicinal plants, including cannabis or marijuana.

Jamaica-born attorney Courtney Betty, THCL president and chief executive officer (CEO), has repeatedly emphasized that the company’s interest is not in selling marijuana.

The aim of Timeless, he has said, is to continue playing “a leading role in establishing Jamaica as the medical marijuana hub of the world’’, and in “bringing forth medical products to market’’.

Among the undertakings of THCL so far is an agreement with the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) for the growing of medicinal plants on “mined-out” bauxite lands. Under a memorandum of understanding, the JBI is providing technical training for farmers in the growing of medical cannabis and other crops such as guinea hen weed, moringa and black castor bean.

Other agreements signed by THCL, which also provides scholarships to students enrolled in science-based courses, include one with the University of Technology in Jamaica, and another with Mt Sinai Hospital in New York. The company also has formed an alliance with Denver-based O.penVAPE, the largest consumer cannabis brand in the United States.

Several investors, including Canadians, have thrown their support behind THCL, believing that the company’s products can generate millions of dollars in the future.

“It’s an ongoing path. I’m very fortunate to have a great team,’’ Betty said at the breakfast meeting.

Some of the investors – including a former National Football League player and a University of Toronto lecturer who also is a medical doctor – were at Sunday’s meeting, and  spoke about  their visits to the THCL’s operations in Christiana and Coleyville, which are in finance minister Shaw’s constituency. The company has been granted a “Cultivator’s Licence’’ by the Jamaican Cannabis Licencing Authority.

“I’m just very, very enthusiastic about this process,’’ said Lloyd Wilks, Jamaica’s consul general in Toronto. “I endorse very strongly this effort and I am very hopeful that you will reap the benefits that you expect.’’

Shaw admitted that some of his Jamaican cabinet colleagues balked at the idea of setting up a legal medical cannabis industry because of the “stigma’’ associated with marijuana.

The minister noted that in the meantime, the US Food and Drug Administration has formally approved the development of a cannabis drug and some American states and cities are “making billions of dollars’’ out of the cannabis industry.

“It has been a steady, slow, plodding process and for our purposes in Jamaica, far too slow; far too plodding, while others have been multiplying their earnings in billions of United States dollars. That cannot continue,’’ said Shaw.

“I encourage you to do more research and development. Let us find those unique properties that are unique to Jamaica and let’s develop them.’’

In their work, THCL investors should focus on helping the Jamaican people, Shaw recommended.

“I encourage you, as you invest in Jamaica, invest in the people. You’ll get the returns,’’ he said. “Develop the people; help your families; encourage your families to send their children to school.’’