Cultivators can now sell, turn in cannabis during 1-year amnesty
DR JERROL THOMPSON, Chairperson and CEO of the Medicinal Cannabis Authority
March 6, 2020

Cultivators can now sell, turn in cannabis during 1-year amnesty


THE PERIOD DURING which persons will receive amnesty for cannabis cultivation has been specified, more than one year after the Cannabis Cultivation Amnesty Act (2018) was passed in Parliament.

According to the Cannabis Cultivation (Amnesty) (Commencement and Termination of Act) Notice 2020, the Amnesty Act came into force on March 3, 2020.

Traditional cannabis cultivators will be granted amnesty from that date until March 2, 2021, which is when the amnesty period is scheduled to be terminated.

The Cannabis Cultivation Amnesty Act (2018) provides for the granting of amnesty for the period which has been set by Cabinet, to persons engaged in the cultivation of cannabis, who may otherwise be liable to criminal prosecution for certain criminal offences and other proceedings under the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act.

A person who qualifies to receive amnesty shall register for a licence (to become a traditional cultivator) with the Medicinal Cannabis Authority during the one-year period.

Once that individual becomes licensed, the Act allows for the licensee to enter into an agreement for the sale of the cannabis in his possession, subject to the approval of the Authority.

But Shernell Hadaway, the legal officer of the Medicinal Cannabis Authority told SEARCHLIGHT that a person seeking amnesty does not necessarily have to continue as a cultivator.

“It can be that somebody, maybe, was growing it before and they want to completely come out of the illegal industry and want to transition to a legal industry. That’s really what the amnesty is for, to have a smooth transition into the legal industry, but there may be persons who don’t want to deal with it anymore, completely come out, just surrender and that’s it,” she said.

The legal officer noted however, that if a person does not want to become a licensed traditional grower of marijuana, it is understood that the marijuana they surrender is not only all that they have in their possession, but also that they will never illegally grow the herb again.

For persons seeking to become a traditional cultivator, there is a $100 application fee for the licence, but there will be no licence fee for two years.

The Amnesty regulations note that persons registering for a certificate of amnesty must submit documentation to the Medicinal Cannabis Authority, including a certified copy of their national identification card or passport, showing passport number, country of issue, expiry date and the applicant’s photograph.

“The Authority shall, upon granting a certificate of amnesty, must transfer a copy of the certificate to the Police,” the regulation reads.

It also noted that the Authority must transfer payment for the sale of cannabis to the amnesty holder within one month of the sale. And this payment is minus any fees owed to the Authority, which may include the amnesty transaction fees.

Hadaway, the Authority’s legal officer said that at no point, will the Authority have in its possession the marijuana brought in during the amnesty period.

She also noted that the Authority will not be buying marijuana, but rather facilitating the sale of the product between the person seeking amnesty and a licensee who will process the marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes.

“We cannot determine what will be bought because the Authority is never buying marijuana. It’s the amnesty holder that has to have an agreement with a purchaser and they will be the one organising the product,” she explained.

She said that “when they are bringing it in, it is more likely than not that they will have a buyer. So they will sign up for amnesty and when they bring it in, like physically bring it from the hills, it is more likely than not that they have somebody that wants to buy it from them”.

Therefore, persons seeking amnesty may at some point expect to receive payment for the marijuana being surrendered during the period, but only if they have an agreement with an investor who is willing to buy the product.

Hadaway also noted that the investors will be the ones to carry out testing on the marijuana brought in during the amnesty period to determine whether it can be used for medicinal purposes.

The Regulations point out that amnesty holders may conduct activities in relation to cannabis, only if the Authority grants permission to do so and such activities are “in accordance with the provisions of the Act, the provisions of subsidiary legislation made under the Act and the terms and conditions of the certificate of amnesty”.

A Cannabis Cultivation Transportation and Storage Notice (2020) was also issued this week and signed by Dr Jerrol Thompson, chairperson of the Board of the Medicinal Cannabis Authority.

“In circumstances where cannabis is to be surrendered by an amnesty holder, the following procedures shall be executed — (a) the amnesty holder must inform the Authority of the day when the cannabis is to be delivered to a designated place of collection…” the notice said.

It also noted that the amnesty holder must deliver the cannabis to a designated place of collection and the Authority must contact the police, who shall use standard operating procedures to take possession of the cannabis at the designated place of collection.

The Cannabis Cultivation Transportation and Storage Notice (2020) lists 34 places across the country that have been designated for the collection of cannabis. The designated locations are between Campden Park and North Leeward on the west coast and South Central Windward and Fancy on the east coast of St Vincent.

Upon taking possession of the cannabis, three inspectors, one of whom shall be a police officer, the amnesty holder and licensee must transport the cannabis to the designated place for storage where it is expected to be weighed, labelled and securely packaged.

The amnesty holder must sign to certify that they accept the weight and must place the code of the seal on the package.

The Notice says “an amnesty holder transporting cannabis to a designated place of collection must report to the Authority and the police, immediately, any vehicular accident that occurs during the transportation of cannabis and report any loss or theft of cannabis that occurs during transportation to the designated place of collection to the Authority and the police, immediately after the amnesty holder becomes aware of the loss or theft”.

The Amnesty Act of 2018 is among a suite of legislation that was approved by parliamentarians for the establishment of a medicinal cannabis industry in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The other acts include the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Act (2018) for the establishment of the industry; and the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Amendment Act (2018), which makes a ticketable offence, the possession of two ounces or more of marijuana.