Courtney Laing, Founder and CEO of Sataviva Jamaica, is committed to building a leading Jamaican cannabis company. He brings more than 20 years experience in business development, real estate and contracting, with a broad range of expertise, from project planning, management and operations to partnerships within Jamaica’s hospitality industry.
Courtney spoke to High Vibes Jamaica recently about his love for the cannabis plant, the process of building his cannabis brand and shares advice to entrepreneurs looking to enter the Jamaican cannabis industry.
What attracted you to the cannabis industry?
Courtney Laing: As an Entrepreneur and innovator, I decided to pursue the cannabis industry in 2015 when the Jamaican government decriminalized marijuana. I foresee cannabis as being Jamaica’s last natural resource, unless we find oil, hence I decided to capitalize on this opportunity.
What is your vision for your cannabis company?
CL: Sataviva Jamaica Ltd. is a vertically integrated cannabis company committed to the cultivation of organic “ganja” and medical grade cannabis extracts for local retailers, the tourism market and export. Sataviva seeks to be a global player, maximising on all available cannabis opportunities both locally and abroad, while creating job opportunities and contributing to National growth.
How has the process been for licensing with the CLA?
CL: The process is very straightforward considering that this is a new industry in Jamaica. However as with anything new, there are trials, errors and constraints. The approval process is very lengthy, however there has been improvements from 12 months to 9 months. If they employ more officers, the processing time could be reduced further to 6 months.
What are some difficulties you have faced along the process?
CL: My biggest challenge is finding a suitable partner who is willing to invest in the Company. Without financing, businesses cannot be licensed and for cannabis to be grown properly, at the medical standard, you need resources such as proper equipment, nutrients and accessories, which will allow you to grow organic ganja.
What drives you in your entrepreneurial endeavors?
CL: I am attached to the plant. I respect the plant, I believe in the plant and I love the plant.
How have you been managing during the Covid-10 pandemic?
CL: Covid-19 has slowed down our operations. Every crisis creates an opportunity and I am using this pandemic as a reason to get our Research and Development (R&D) Unit started. We are creating a formula for Cannabis water in order to help in the recovery process of Covid-19.
Has the pandemic changed your business plans in anyway?
CL: The pandemic has slowed down my quest to find overseas investors as persons are scared to travel. I have been in dialogue with prospective investors who were booked to visit Jamaica before the pandemic but have since postponed their travel plans.
How do you think Jamaica has progressed since the decriminalization of cannabis 5 years ago?
CL: The decriminalisation of cannabis for medical, religious, scientific and therapeutic uses is a great step for Jamaica. It has allowed us to open our doors to visitors who come to Jamaica for the herb. We have opened numerous dispensaries throughout the island so that tourists and locals can partake in the medical grade cannabis and avoid the black market. Decriminalization has allowed all Jamaicans to grow 5 plants on their premises and with that, it will allow farmers to master their craft. It also allows the justice system to concentrate on more serious crimes rather than arresting people for a joint. It has allowed people who had a criminal record because of a small portion of herb to get it expunged.
Do you have any advice for those who are thinking of entering the cannabis industry?
CL: I would advise anyone who wants to enter this industry to go ahead, but not to view the industry as a “get rich quick” scheme. The cannabis industry is diverse, poised for growth and isn’t going away anytime soon.
Where do you see the Jamaican cannabis industry in another 5 years??
CL: The industry has the potential to grow to the point where every parish has a dispensary. However, two very important steps still need to be taken for the industry to maximise and see full potential growth. Firstly, the legalizing of cannabis in Jamaica will allow for the regulated and recreational use of cannabis. This would have major and positive impacts on tourism. Secondly, the removal of cannabis from schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act of the US. This continues to stymie the growth of the industry as the banking sector is reluctant to fund and provide other services perhaps out of fear of breaching USA federal laws. Unlike other business ventures, you cannot access a bank loan for your cannabis business and it makes it harder to attract investors. Jamaica can benefit economically from taxes and exports.