TRADITIONAL CULTIVATORS of marijuana are poised to take a bite out of the medicinal cannabis industry, not just by producing raw material, but by becoming involved in manufacturing, processing and scientific research.
JUNIOR ‘SPIRIT’ Cottle, the leader of an amalgamated co-operative, SVG Cannabis Revival Community Co-operative Ltd believes these are the key areas that will allow traditional growers of marijuana to make the biggest impact in this country’s budding medicinal cannabis industry.
Representatives from the SVG Cannabis Revival Community Co-operative Ltd attended a meeting yesterday at the Ministry of Agriculture, with minister, Saboto Caesar to discuss the integration of traditional cultivators into the local medicinal cannabis value chain spanning 2022 to 2030 and beyond.
“I see this as a very important start. I am aware of what the general public is saying on the issue and I would want for full openness and transparency as we work with the traditional cultivators for it to be recorded and reflected in the media. We are building this thing together and we have to reflect that in the general public,” Caesar told SEARCHLIGHT following yesterday’s meeting.
The agriculture minister outlined elements of yesterday’s discussion; one of which include plans to establish an “Alternative Sustainable Livelihoods Desk” at the Ministry of Agriculture to deal with all opportunities related to alternative sustainable livelihoods.
“…The ‘officials bystander’, the man in little Tokyo might say well, ‘he ain’t call it cannabis desk because he want the man them to come out of cannabis’. That’s not true. Alternative to illegal cannabis is medicinal cannabis. I want people to be a part of the medicinal cannabis industry. But the alternative doesn’t begin and end with cannabis. I want traditional cultivators to also participate in fishing,” he said.
Caesar referenced the Rastafarian group, RASFARCO, who was recently approved for funding to the tune of $500,000 under the OECS Agriculture Competitiveness (AGRICOM) Project, to be used in the execution of several projects.
The agriculture minister said the group was one of the largest exporters of agriculture commodities prior to COVID-19 and the funding will assist in the revival of that platform.
“So here we see a cannabis grouping of traditional cultivators who have already diversified into other segments of production and they want to continue that but they also want to participate in the alternative production of not illicit cannabis, but medicinal cannabis and be actively engaged at all levels that they may think feasible,” Caesar, who also has responsibility for Industry, said.
These levels include production, marketing and the possible establishment of an indigenous herb house in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), similar to the medicinal cannabis consumption lounge that was officially opened at Coconut Grove last Friday.
Giving an idea of what a herb house might look like, Caesar said “it might be an eco lodge in the mountains, very quiet, where you have a place for meditation”.
“But whatever is done by the traditional cultivator, by the local investor, by the foreign investor, by the international investor from the region or extra-region, must all fall within the laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines…,” he said, noting that the Medicinal Cannabis Authority is the regulating body on matters related to medicinal cannabis in SVG.
Caesar told SEARCHLIGHT that yesterday’s discussion also involved a visit to Jamaica for three members of the co-operative as Jamaica has the most developed traditional cultivator integration in the English speaking Caribbean.
Also present at yesterday’s meeting was Matthias Piaseki and Sherry Piasecki; the CEO and COO of Caribbean Gold Standard Labs, respectively; and Bhavin Patel and Mike Patel of Island Refinery.
Discussions with these representatives centred on quality testing and ways of integrating traditional cultivators into the medicinal cannabis market without them having to sell their crops to larger farms.
Cottle told SEARCHLIGHT that the SVG Cannabis Revival Community Co-operative Ltd was recently established and incorporates two other co-operatives which are involved in the cultivation of cannabis and agricultural produce.
The traditional cultivator, who also works along with the Medicinal Cannabis Authority, explained that the amalgamated group was formed with the aim of reaching out and uniting with other traditional cultivators co-operatives as it pushes forward in building partnerships with investors to assist in becoming fully integrated into the industry.
He added that discussions are currently ongoing with two other co-operatives in North Leeward and Fancy, respectively to join the umbrella organisation.
Cottle said the group has access to at least 90 acres of land to cultivate and said “we just want investors to partner with us”.
He added that the organisation was acting on the basis “fair trade, sustainability and social justice” — principles that will guide future relationships with any investor interested in entering in meaningful partnership with traditional cultivators and their advancement in the local medicinal cannabis industry.