St Vincent and the Grenadines opens door to medicinal cannabis
By Sean Rose*
The door to the establishment of a sustainable medicinal cannabis industry in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) swung wide open at the start of 2018 unveiling a pathway for ground-breaking business and employment opportunities in the country.
SVG is a small multi-island island state located in the southern zone of the eastern Caribbean with an entire landmass covering an estimated 150 square miles. Renowned for its rich volcanic soil and beautiful beaches along the shores of the archipelago chain, populated by just over 100,000 talented people, the island over the years has become known internationally for an underground cannabis industry second only to Jamaica, in the Caribbean.
Seventy-five percent of the product is grown for export, using unsustainable practices along the hillside of the island’s dormant volcano. The global trend to explore cannabis for medicinal usage provides an excellent platform for positive change to the lives of many Vincentians, especially those who over the years may have risked their lives, or fallen on the wrong side of the law.
The country’s minister of agriculture and industry, Saboto Caesar, a lawyer by profession with a specialization in banking and finance law, said in light of the global trend to establish medicinal cannabis industries that St Vincent and the Grenadines would not be left behind.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has established a committee to explore through the Caribbean basin, the opportunities and possibilities surrounding the cannabis plant from a recreational and medicinal usage viewpoint. The government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, however, has noted that, at this point, the conversation will only surround the establishment of a modern medicinal cannabis industry.
This is viewed by some as a judicious approach while a sizeable percentage of the population will wish to see both recreational and medicinal usage of the product be discussed simultaneously.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is known for its deep Christian beliefs. This has been appreciated as one of the reasons, possibly, informing the policy opinions to address cannabis only for the establishment of a medicinal industry.
There is a building consensus around medicinal cannabis among different stakeholders in the Vincentian body politic. Meetings have been held with the island’s Christian Council.
The membership within the Vincentian Bar and Medical Associations, along with cabinet members of the elected administration, have been exposed to the technical knowledge of the world by renowned medical doctor Dr Hance Clarke, a Vincentian by birth who currently resides in Toronto, Canada.
The discussion now occupies significant time on popular radio programmes. The process of a national consultation began in December 2017, and has turned the issue into one of the islands most topical themes for discussion.
Potential investors from around the world interested in making investment in the industry have started to explore such possibilities. The national committee put in place for the establishment of a modern medicinal cannabis Industry while it welcomes foreign direct investments, saw it fit to have a forum convened by Invest SVG to encourage nationals to invest in what has been deemed to be a possible us-multi-million dollar industry.
Annette Marks of Invest SVG has asked nationals to invest whether singularly or by pooling resources among local companies and cooperatives to be part of the thrust towards a homegrown medicinal cannabis industry.
Prime minister of SVG for the past 17 years, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, a political scientist and lawyer by profession, has made several calls over the years for an exploration of the opportunities available for the establishment of a cannabis industry.
Dr Godwin Friday, leader of the opposition, speaking at a recent meeting held in St Vincent expressed support for the creation of a cannabis industry. Friday noted, among other things, that persons who have cultivated marijuana illegally for years should not be left behind.
Across SVG and its vibrant Diaspora communities represent a growing consensus on the issue of the formation of a modern medicinal cannabis industry. Over the upcoming months, public discussions are expected to intensify as stakeholders cement their investments.
A timetable for an outside date of March 31, 2018, is targeted by the National Medicinal Cannabis Committee (NMCC) to complete consultations, which will be focused heavily on sensitizing all stakeholders about the establishment of a home-grown medicinal cannabis industry. The NMCC is chaired by Agriculture and Industry minister Saboto Caesar.
SVG may end 2018 very different than it started should an Act on medicinal cannabis become a reality within the first quarter of this year. The doors are opened to all stakeholders to make this a reality. The doors to a medicinal cannabis industry in St Vincent and the Grenadines are wide open.
*Sean Rose is a Vincentian-born national, with over 18 years practice in media and communications management. He holds a BA (Honors) Degree in Media and Communications; and a diploma in Mass Communications from the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica.