A number of milestones have been achieved since the journey towards the establishment of a medicinal cannabis industry began a few years ago.
According to Dr. Jerrol Thompson, CEO of the Medicinal Cannabis Authority(MCA),“we have crossed many milestones in terms of the legislation. The legislation is in place along with the regulations. That is necessary to conduct a modern cannabis industry.”
It has been an ongoing process since the medicinal cannabis industry was first conceptualised for St. Vincent and the Grenadines as another pillar in the diversification of the nation’s economy, Thompson was speaking last Saturday at a brief ceremony during which the MCA accepted a consignment of seeds on behalf of traditional cannabis cultivators and farmers to replenish their farms.
The seeds were presented by Dr. Machel Emmanuel, the Vice-Chair of the Jamaica Bureau of Standards Cannabis Technical Committee, and Robert Wright, Chair of the GI Life Foundation and a director of PURE Jamaica.
Rehabilitation of the local medicinal cannabis industry is ongoing following the explosive eruptions of La Soufriere volcano in April 2021 that caused the loss of variants and seeds, and according to Dr. Thompson, it is “a new start in seeing how we can approach quality cultivation.”
One major challenge which has engaged the attention of stakeholders was how to overcome the difficulty in moving capital due to US federal laws.
Unable to conduct business using US dollars, the Vincentian authorities were able to set up “a unique situation,” that includes Caribbean nations which have decriminalised medicinal cannabis, and along with Canada and Europe, now facilitates the movement of capital without any hindrance.
Added to this is the correct legal documentation which enables investors and traditional cultivators to open bank accounts, an activity in which US-based companies are unable to engage due to the federal restrictions of the USA.
Another milestone which the stakeholders have identified is that more than100 patients in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have received prescriptions to purchase medicinal cannabis products, and a number doctors and pharmacists have undergone training in the dispensation of medicinal cannabis products.
Dr Thompson said they were pleased that the St Lucia authorities recently decriminalised the possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis for an individual, a decision that went into effect in SVG in 2019, when persons were legally allowed to possess up to 56 grams of cannabis.
Also speaking at last Saturday’s ceremony, Ministry of Agriculture Saboto Caesar said, “when we saw the start of the eruptive stage of La Soufriere and the subsequent 32 volcanic eruptions…we knew from the get go that there would be immense destruction of our agriculture germ plasm, not only for cannabis, but for other commodities,” noting that promises were made.
“I can recall in the early days of crafting the industry we noted to the traditional cultivators, that you will not be left behind,” the minister noted.
“When many persons in the Rastafari community spoke of the medicinal value of cannabis, many looked at them in a negative way. I am happy today that we have blended science with a history of experiments by our people- even though they did not have the wherewithal to do the depth of the quantitative or the qualitative scientific research- and we have married that with policy to ensure that what we are doing here is legal,”Ceasar added.
“We have made many promises and we have already seen the fulfilment of many of these promises. It was an early mantra that the medicinal wellness industry would begin, and it would end with science,” he emphasised.
He spoke glowingly that “many persons from across the globe [are] heading to St. Vincent and the Grenadines as the place where we are witnessing a revolution in the science of medicinal wellness.
“It is the quest of the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to explore a very broad array of flora, fauna, and fungi, to ensure that we have a modern, competitive nutriceutical, aquaceutical, and eventually pharmaceutical industry; one that we will all be able to boast about and would exude the pride of Hairouna, Land of the Blessed.”