Photographer Varun Baker also happens to be a mobile app developer. And Varun smokes a little weed. Formerly of /slashroots his current project Ganjagram aims to one day connect buyers with growers of Jamaica’s highest grades.
Of all the apps to make, why this?
For most people there’s a grey area around Ganja and the Law in Jamaica right now. I did this because I spotted the opportunity and thought we need this. I think many people in Jamaica are getting caught up in all the things the government is not doing for Ganja in terms of communicating information. I see it as an opportunity to do it myself and the result was this app on Ganja and the Law in Jamaica by Ganjagram. It’s just like a free handy guide you can fit in your pocket.
What’s the most common confusion with the law?
Probably just “What’s legal now?” I remember a story right after the amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act (2015) was made, a man carrying almost 100 pounds of ganja drove straight into a police station to ask for directions thinking, “Hey, it’s legal now.”
Be honest, were you high today?
DWL. No, when I ran into you today I had just come from getting some exercise.
And at any time making this app?
Haha. Ya, for sure. This is actually a really fun project. Imagine, my user research takes me to places like Orange Hill to reason with farmers and find out why people call it the source of the best ganja.
However, I will say that I’ve gained even more insight from people who do not smoke ganja many of whom belong to the Ganjagram team. I really have seen a surge in interest around ganja now that people are finding more legitimate places to find information on the topic.
Does smoking influence what apps you make?
Yeah sometimes it must, I mean, it’s called Ganjagram. Let me tell you, when your computer is freezing up or running slow, it’s very calming to know you can just light a spliff.
What do you plan to add to the app?
There’s some exciting stuff coming out in November. We’ll soon enable a shopping cart where people can buy original natural vaporisers AKA steamers. We’ll also offer some spices to cook with.
Scenario: police are about to arrest you…so you reach for your smartphone…what next?
Ha, if a policeman was trying to arrest me and I’m reaching for my smartphone, it’d probably be to make a call [we don’t recommend that either]. Seriously, Ganjagram contains very useful information, even good information to share with a policeman, but in that situation it’s best to understand your rights beforehand so that you know what you are doing is lawful. I think everyone should just download the app and flip through it to familiarise themselves with Ganja and the Law in Jamaica.
The ‘ganja industry’, how do you see it developing?
I think it will undoubtedly go through growing pains as it moves into a more formal economy. The exciting thing is that this is a good time, there is clearly money to be made but it’s up to everyone involved right now to decide who makes it.
Do you plan to play any further role in the industry?
Yea, well I’m learning tremendously every day. I think one day soon I’d like to see Ganjagram continue to use technology to facilitate communication for the many ganja stakeholders on the island.
How will Jamaican players fare vs overseas investors?
Well on that note, I think the think a good way forward is in forming partnerships between local entities and overseas investors. I would also like to see the people stand up to ensure that local interests are protected.
Any plans for your own strain/brand?
Haha, right now I’m trying to build a great brand around Ganjagram. I think the people best equipped to have a great strain are farmers so we are on a mission to find the best. Once we find it, everyone will know.
Mobile app development in Jamaica, how is the scene?
I find the scene great! There’s a lot of young talent here and in the region. I think smartphone penetration in the region, as with everywhere, is on the rise, especially amongst the youth who are also bringing about more innovation with these tools.