Marks said that his company is interested in using marijuana to cure illnesses. (Internet photo)

A law to allow for the setting up of a medicinal marijuana industry in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) could be presented to Parliament for approval by March 2018.

However, Vincentians would have to wait longer to see if their government will decriminalise possession of small portions of the drug for recreational use, such as the youth smoking a marijuana cigarette on street corners.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told a press conference last week that he met on Old Year’s Day with Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar and Pet Sealey, a Vincentian legal draftsperson, working out of Jamaica to do consultations and the draft law and regulations.

He said that Caesar is chairing a Cabinet committee on the issue of medical marijuana.

“And I am hopeful that by the end of the first quarter that we should have, in the Parliament, a bill addressing the question of medical marijuana — medical marijuana industry,” the prime minister said.

“Notice I am not talking yet about decriminalisation of small quantities for recreational, religious use. That’s a longer debate and discussion. I want to see us have a business in medical marijuana,” Gonsalves told the Jan. 2 press conference.

“I watch the Jamaican experience. Jamaica set up for the medical marijuana and at the same time, they decriminalise in respect of two ounces for personal use.

“The emphasis seems to have been on the decriminalisation for personal use. I want us to put this matter of medical marijuana as an industry centre and upfront. And I want to see foreign investment in it and I want to see domestic investment in it. Because they have to have the marketplace with the entities responding to the market, the Canadian market, British market, the European market generally, for medicinal marijuana.”

Gonsalves reminded listeners that marijuana, as a plant, has beneficial uses.

“Notice what I said, beneficial uses. But it is a plant, because it has narcotic properties, can be misused and abused. That is why the law in the past has been addressing the misuse of marijuana. I want to address the use, the beneficial use of it; not the misuse and abuse.

“And, clearly, a regime will have to be put in place for growing it under secure conditions, a particular strain of marijuana for medicinal purposes, you would have to have the laboratory facilities to extract the oil from it and to export those and we are even talking about locally, if any of the investors are so inclined. And we are having discussions, there are three of them, to have, in addition to extracting the oils, to see if it is possible to do some pharmaceutical production here itself,” Gonsalves said.

The prime minister said his government is serious about it because he thinks there is unanimity in SVG that marijuana has medicinal uses and that it must be done in a proper and scientific way.

“And there are reputable entities which have been talking to us. But I don’t want local business people to be saying, ‘Well, we didn’t know.’

“We have been talking about it, and, interestingly, while we talk about it, people from overseas have been contacting us but not local business people. And the government clearly has a role to play in facilitating local entities that want to be involved in such an industry.

“I don’t want to talk about prospective details now, but only to make [clear] at this beginning of the New Year that this is an important area.”

Gonsalves responded to persons who might be critical of the move.

“What we have to do is to sit back, analyse, reflect and take decisions within our own interest.”

He said he is “hopeful that we can have serious and abbreviated discussion on this matter – further discussion”.

He said that conversation is going on, noting that he had urged CARICOM to set up the CARICOM Marijuana Commission.

“The work is stalled a little, they have done some work, they had consultations here. I just can’t wait indefinitely. And that one, I want to see if I can get it done with a bill to Parliament before the end of the first quarter of the year. Very ambitious, I may not meet that deadline but I’m trying to aim for that deadline.”

He said that the other discussion about decriminalising for personal use is “a longer discussion, a more involved discussion, a more contentious issue”.

The prime minister pre-empted accusations that he is afraid to decriminalise small portions of marijuana for recreational use.

“But, as a policymaker, on a matter like that, you have to make sure that you have full involvement, full discussion and you have the broad body of public opinion with you on it. But, on medical marijuana, I don’t see any controversy there. There may be the odd person here and there. So I think it is a question of lining up the industry in a manner which benefits us,” Gonsalves said.

4 replies on “Medical marijuana law could be passed by March”

  1. Too little, too late, as I will show in an essay length analysis of this issue. We will soon be importing medical marijuana from places like Canada which are years ahead of us in research, production, and marketing.

    Please note that we are always one step foward and two steps back when it comes to any development policy whether it concerns call centres, local manufacturing, agricultural exports, tourism, and now medical marijuana.

  2. Brown Boy USA says:

    What is the purpose of setting up a medical marijuana industries in St. Vincent when marijuana is still considered illegal federally in the Unites States and other major countries? Therefore, who are your intended target market? Marijuana is grown and readily available throughout the Caribbean! On the other hand, you keep neglecting agriculture and the major traditional contribution farming has made to the development of our country. Agriculture products, which are legal everywhere on this planet, are constantly being placed on the backburner. Why is this government looking only into ventures that can directly benefit them and not the country as a whole? Traditionally, we are a farming country. What other resource do we really have for sustainable development? Many developed and developing countries are recognizing and investing more in their agriculture sector. However, this country seems to want to jump on every bandwagon of every new venture to impress the masses. What immediate benefit can be gained by spending millions of dollars into developing a medical marijuana industry when the money that can be used to develop agriculture cultivation in St. Vincent? Not because Jamaica is doing it that means we should jump on the bandwagon! This does not make any sense! It is time that this government be more practical and look at the bigger picture than taking up ventures than may benefit only a few. Our people’s development on a whole is of utmost importance, or are they seen as only voting cattle?

  3. The deal with the Mount Wynne project was that they would only build if they could open a clinic based on medical marijuana tourism. That was promised to them and that is the reason they have not started the project. Once the act is passed they will proceed with the project.

    I do not know if the Canadian company has an agreement regarding production of marijuana for medical use. But it’s a question that needs to be answered.

    We should also be told why this deal was never released to the citizens. Have our traditional specialists been locked out of the marijuana production for this project?

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