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·       Let me first extend my congratulations to the Canex team for yet another well organized event, which is providing a robust platform for international, regional and local experts and stakeholders to network and learn about the developing medicinal, therapeutic and scientific focused cannabis industry in Jamaica.

·       I joined you last year in Montego Bay at the inaugural seminar series and I am honoured to join you again this year in Kingston.

·       I am absolutely stunned by the rapid changes in public opinion, attitudes and government policy pertaining to cannabis. Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Ireland, Germany, Romania and the Cayman Islands are just some of the countries to have most recently made changes to their laws liberalizing in varying degrees the use of cannabis for medicinal and other purposes. It means that we have no time to waste, as the world is moving ahead at high speed.

·       We have seen North American marijuana sales growing by an unprecedented 30% in 2016 to US$6.7 billion as the legal market expands in the U.S. and Canada, according to a new report by the respected Arcview Market Research.

·       North American sales are projected to top $20.2 billion by 2021, assuming a compound annual growth rate of 25%.

·       Ladies and gentlemen, Jamaica cannot afford to miss out on these opportunities. 


·       Ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake about it, Tourism is and will continue to be the biggest driver for economic growth and prosperity in Jamaica for years to come. And, as we build up for more significant growth, we are keen on repositioning the sector to achieve higher growth rates, a better spread of the benefits of tourism to each and every Jamaican and a stronger linkages through the economic fabric of this beautiful island nation.

·       We have already raked in a record US$1 billion over the past four months, representing a 6.5 per cent increase over the same period last year.

·       We had a total 1.58 million visitors between January and April this year representing approximately 795,000 for stopover arrivals and 784,000 from cruise shipping most keen on having happy and unique experiences.

·       We did quite well last year 2016, for we recorded total tourist arrivals of 3.84 million – up by roughly 4 percent, with 2.2 million stopovers up 2.8% and 1.66 million cruise passenger arrivals up 5.5%.

·       Estimated Gross Foreign Exchange Earnings for 2016 amounted to US$2.55 billion up 6.2 percent, with stopover arrival earnings of US$2.4 billion up 6.1 percent and cruise passenger earnings of US$148.6 million up 8 percent.

·       Investment in the tourism sector is booming which includes the renovation and upgrading of several properties. Over 3000 rooms are now available which we never had the winter before.

·       We have roughly US$1 billion actively engaged at varying stages. Among the hotels that have been recently completed, just commenced development projects and/or plan further expansion in room stock or are now putting new rooms on the market are Excellence Group, Sandals, RIU, Bahia Principe, Royal Decameron, Royalton, Spanish Court, Moon Palace, the Hendrickson owned Wyndham, Half Moon, Karisma, Hilton Rose Hall, Secrets, China Harbour, the Renfrew and others that prefer not be named at this time.


·       However, ladies and gentlemen, we can do far better.

·       After all, tourism is a sector that has the potential to stimulate wide-scale economic activity, foster new growth in our communities, generate the jobs we need so badly and earn billions of dollars in foreign exchange. 

·       For this reason, my Ministry is focused on positioning tourism to become a powerful catalyst for improving the socio-economic conditions of our people.


·       Our targets are clear and we are on track to exceed them. We are keen on securing 5 million visitors by 2021, and in that timeline we intend to generate US$5 billion in tourism earnings, increase the total direct jobs to 125,000 and add 15,000 new hotel rooms.

·       Now, how do we plan to achieve this?  I have spoken before of the Five Pillars of Tourism Growth, which my Ministry and our agencies are focusing on, as we seek to transform the island’s tourism sector, deepen linkages and achieve significant growth.

These Pillars are:

o   Tapping into new markets

o   Developing new products

o   Promoting investment

o   Building new partnerships, and;

o   Developing human capital

·       Underscoring these five pillars of growth, are five networks, incorporating several key sectors, that will better integrate tourism with the wider society and thereby better spread the benefits to all Jamaicans. These five networks are:

o   Gastronomy

o   Sports and Entertainment

o   Health and Wellness

o   Shopping, and;

o   Knowledge


·       Now that you are clear on the framework for growth and development in the tourism sector, I want to say categorically that cannabis, ganja, marijuana, sensimilla, whatever you call it, will undoubtedly play an absolutely critical role in enhancing the experiences of our visitors to our beautiful island.

·       We are determined to ensure that Jamaica for one does not to lose its place as a premier destination for unique cannabis related tourism experiences but importantly make better, make more dynamic, make more quality driven those experiences.

·       As a matter of fact, the Manifesto of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) for the 2016 General Election last year was quite clear. It noted that, “The Jamaica Labour Party will make the worldwide market more aware of our revised local regime in respect of personal ganja use and medicinal marijuana availability. Development of medicinal marijuana is a large potential growth area both in terms of export potential and as a draw for medical tourists.”

·       Our Health and Wellness Network will play a lead role in fully realising this promise. This network, chaired by Dr. Henry Lowe and hotelier Christene Cohen, has brought together key stakeholders with expertise in the industry to the table and will help to pioneer the modernization of health and wellness in Jamaica.

·       We must acknowledge the growing interest in the wellness or holistic model of treatment operating alongside the medical model. Health and wellness is a US$494 billion global industry and we, as a tourism leader in the region and as a country that relies so heavily on tourism, cannot afford to miss this opportunity.

·       Now Cannabis tourism, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the newest phenomenons in the marijuana industry globally. It can range from vineyard like tours of cannabis farms and grow houses, to cannabis friendly accommodations, to cannabis themed tours of communities and cities.

·       Jamaica giving birth to and being the epicentre of Rastafari and Reggae is a natural for Cannabis tourism, and with legislation effectively allowing for the elevation of many parts of the cannabis industry above sea level, entrepreneurs are now in a position to execute dynamic projects and initiatives aimed at the many persons around the world keen on visiting the island.

·       I note with interest, as an example, Ganja themed tours of cities like Denver and Seattle popular among crowds eager to learn about the world of cannabis. There are many different tour companies that focus on cannabis themed tours of cities that are tailored to the must-see marijuana related sites in the city. The tours include everything from showing people the top dispensaries in the city, sometimes with some added discounts, to tours of grow facilities. Some tours even include information about strains and education about different cannabinoids and the pros and cons of different administration methods.

·       It is important to note that despite a different regime from that of Jamaica, the state of Colorado is already benefitting from cannabis tourism since reforms to chang to a fully liberalized regime 2012. Tourists spent an estimated US$100 million at marijuana stores in Colorado in 2015. There, visitors made up nearly 17% of non-medical related sales in the state according to the Marijuana Business Daily reports.

·       There is no doubt that Jamaica will shine.

·       Ladies and gentlemen, Spafinder Wellness, a reputable spa and wellness authority, in its 2015 Trends Report, “Spafinder Wellness 365” reported, as its second trend, on cannabis and its new spa and wellness connection.

·       The trend highlights they came up with were as follows:

o   Cannabis business adopting the language of wellness, and look and services of spas;

o   Cannabis dispensaries and clubs adding free massage, yoga, meditation, acupuncture services and more;

o   Traditional medical spas prescribing medical cannabis;

o   Cannabis “wellness tourism” packages with spas as centerpiece;

o   Non-high-inducing cannabis topical: from pain-relieving lotions to beauty products;

o   Cannabis-branded day spas – and more spas generally using cannabis products;

o   More “yoganja” classes; and

o   Cannabis as super-food: hempseed and hemp milk as new “it” products.

·       Ladies and Gentlemen, we are no doubt aware of the trend developing globally which infuses the use of cannabis products within the spa environment.

·       We already have the infrastructure and many individual programmes. As a matter of fact, I believe that the south western corridor of the island stretching from Negril to Treasure Beach probably has the best potential of becoming a health and wellness tourism resort zone.

·       I not only foresee but will urge for the development of boutique health and wellness spas incorporating cannabis products such as wraps and oils.

·       There are yoga retreats that take place regularly all over the island.

·       We are blessed with the Milk River Bath in Clarendon which is home to some of the most radioactive waters in the world, containing high levels of calcium, magnesium, sulphate and natural chloride.

·       We have the Bath Fountain in St. Thomas, reputed to have healing properties.

·       Jamaica is not short of spas and spa products; major players such as the Eden Gardens Wellness Resort and Spa and Jencare Skin Farm have done very well for themselves.

·       This movement will witness the development of new human capital resources and therefore new training. This market is great for individuals with an interest in chemical studies involving natural, traditional products.

·       North American dispensaries and European cannabis clubs have been adding free massages, yoga, pilates, meditation classes, alternative medicine specialists and even cannabis juice bars…the opportunities are endless.

·       We are also in Jamaica seeing enhanced entertainment events, including Rastafari Rootzfest and High Vibez; and, of course, Rebel Salute among several others are promoting enhanced cannabis related entertainment experiences that will undoubtedly draw more visitor traffic to the island.


·       Cannabis, ladies and gentlemen, will be a large part of the health and wellness industry that we’ll market and will be a huge pull factor for tourists as we already have made a mark out there on the subject matter.

·       We must not only have the reputation for great cannabis and its by-products, we want to have the reputation for being among the most responsible and more mature nations with this product.

·       We seek to be a nation that has established the framework in which public and private entities can operate with predictability, transparency, and accountability; the tenets of good governance.

·       Rest assured that my Ministry and its agencies, including the Jamaica Tourist Board, will from here on in take into full account the legislative amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act in 2015 and coordinate effective organisation, marketing and promotional support in a responsible effort to extract a more enhanced and dynamic experience for visitors to our island, while contributing to the growth of jobs and revenues across the length and breadth of Jamaica.

·       2017 will be a stellar year for tourism in Jamaica and I am confident that you will assist us in our efforts to make better our tourism product and see to it that we achieve the substantive economic and social growth and development needed to make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.

Thank you

Speech Date: 
Tuesday, May 8, 2018