Jamaican entrepreneur seeks to unite the global cannabis industry - Third annual CannEx Jamaica Business Conference slated for Sept. 27-29
The image of Jamaica has long been married to cannabis, despite the plant being very much illegal on the idyllic Caribbean island until recently. But when Jamaica amended the Dangerous Drugs Act in 2015 to decriminalize possession of up to two ounces, and later, in 2016, legalized the medicinal and religious use of cannabis, the country was on its way to becoming home to a burgeoning and optimistic cannabis industry.
With Jamaica’s unique position in the world’s zeitgeist, combined with a shift in global perspectives about the use and legality of cannabis, entrepreneur Douglas Gordon is betting on the future of cannabis in Jamaica. As founder of the annual CanEx Jamaica Business Conference & Expo in Montego Bay, he wants to establish Jamaica’s place on the international stage while giving entrepreneurs and investors around the world a place to nurture business opportunities.
A global change
The relaxation of cannabis laws by the Jamaican authorities is in line with the modern opinions of scientists and policy-makers around the world. The latest medical science is proving cannabis to not only be a lot safer than many governments had led people to believe, but also that it offers a wide array of health benefits with its pain-killing and inflammation-fighting abilities.
The majority of U.S. states now permit cannabis in some form, while Canada and Uruguay have approved nationwide legalization for recreational use. In Europe, where things have moved a bit slower with regards to cannabis legalization, a number of countries including Germany and Portugal have launched medical cannabis programs.
These shifting global perspectives create opportunity for entrepreneurs, startups and big business. This has driven many in the cannabis industry to band together to share knowledge and advice at local meetups and conferences across the world. Seeing the need to get the leaders of the industry into the same room to share knowledge and to network, along with his desire to advance the industry in Jamaica, Gordon established the annual event in Montego Bay in 2016.
Before cannabis became his focus, Gordon had been a prominent voice for the progression of the Caribbean for more than a decade. In 2005, he launched a popular luxury media brand called OCEAN Style that showcases “the good life” available in the Caribbean. He is also the founder of the I Love Mobay Foundation and recently became chairman of a Montego Bay-based health and wellness distribution company called Zimmer & Co, which offers a range of medicinal cannabis products that have been approved for sale in Jamaica by the Ministry of Health.
To Gordon, Jamaica is the ideal setting for a cannabis conference. Key socio-political changes over the last three years are signs that the Jamaican government has opened up to the idea of a regulated cannabis market that could boost the country’s economy. Many local visionaries like Gordon postulate that Jamaica, with its stepping stone location between North and South America, strong links to Europe and Australia and its long association and domestic history with the plant, can become an important player in the global cannabis industry.
In just three years, CanEx Jamaica has grown from a small-scale convention highlighting the potential of a Jamaican cannabis industry to attracting world-class speakers and becoming the place for top industry experts from across the world to discuss medical advances and uses, the global legal landscape and opportunities for investment.
While relationships and strategic partnerships made at CanEx have played an integral role in developing and advancing the local discussion regarding cannabis, the conference now offers a platform for a global conversation.
This year’s event is Sept. 27-29, with 1,500 delegates converging for the two-day conference. The event will feature more than 50 renowned experts, high-profile speakers and panelists including former Mexican President Vicente Fox and former television talk show star Montel Williams — a passionate medicinal cannabis advocate — who will both deliver keynote addresses.
The conference and expo will feature presentations and exhibitions by medical experts,
policymakers, researchers and business people, highlighting the latest advances in the legal, investment and product development landscapes.
Notable attendees include Dr. Lumir Hanus, an analytic chemist based at the University of Jerusalem and a leading authority in the field of cannabis research; former CIA Director R. James Woolsey; U.S. Rep. Wilbert “Billy” Tauzin (Louisiana); Karel Janecek, a Czech billionaire and cannabis investor; Audley Shaw, Jamaica’s minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries; and Dr. Andres Lopez, head of Colombia’s National Narcotics Agency.
In its first two years, CanEx Jamaica gave more than 90 speakers a forum to share their expertise and helped industry pioneers unite and take the important first steps into uncharted territories.
The third annual CanEx Jamaica will see even more high-level discussion to pave the way for what’s to come. It will feature breakout sessions covering topics such as advocacy, banking and finance, the business of cannabis, science and medicine, cultivation and women entrepreneurship.
Gordon is elated by the successes of CanEx Jamaica and is looking forward to this year’s event.
“This year has seen tremendous movement in the cannabis industry globally, and we’re seeing a marked increase in the participation and enthusiasm in this year’s CanEx Jamaica conference,” he said in a recent interview with the Jamaica Observer.
“In particular, changing regulations in Jamaica will bring immense benefits to both local and international companies,” he said. “We’re pleased to host our conference in Montego Bay, Jamaica, to share the natural rhythm, warmth and vibrancy with everyone who joins us at CanEx Jamaica.”