Leader of the Opposition, Godwin Friday says the Ralph Gonsalves government must ensure that any medical marijuana industry established in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) benefits citizens.
“Whatever happens with the developments with respect to medical marijuana … or those persons here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines who are engaged in providing products to the people who may make medicine and so on, whatever we do has to benefit our people,” Friday said on his weekly appearance on his party’s radio programme, New Times, on NICE Radio on Friday.
“It can’t be a situation where you’re simply inviting multinational pharmaceutical corporations to essentially come and dominate an industry that our local people here can benefit from.”
Friday, who is also leader of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), said that over the last three years, the situation with respect to medical and recreational marijuana, and marijuana in general has changed dramatically in terms of public opinion in SVG, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and also in North America.
He noted that Canada is expected to pass legislation this year to legalise marijuana for medicinal and recreational use.
He said that in 2015 — before becoming NDP Leader last year — the party had an internal discussion about the matter and had formed the opinion then that “medicinal marijuana, the use of it, is something that really we cannot, as a country and as a party oppose.
“If it is going to be a matter for beneficial use by persons, then what is the reason for opposing the beneficial use for medicinal purposes,” Friday said.
He said that at the time, the NDP did not make a public statement on its discussion, but said that the party’s position has not changed.
The opposition Leader acknowledged that the Gonsalves government has been talking about the establishment of a medical marijuana industry in SVG and there is widespread discussion throughout CARICOM.
People have reviewed the evidence and public opinion has changed considerably, Friday said.
“We represent people. We are a party who represent people. We represent a community and so on, so we have to take note of that change and to reflect in our own policies an adaptation to public opinion as it changes.”
He said the NDP’s parliamentary caucus had a discussion about the matter recently.
The party’s conclusion, he said, is that “whatever we do that it must be for the benefit of our people.
“We must have that as first and foremost, creating jobs and opportunities for our people and that is where we stand on it and you would hear a more detailed exposition of our position on it with the press conference,” Friday said, referring to a press briefing scheduled for next week.
The opposition leader’s comments came just under two weeks after Gonsalves told a press conference that his government will bring to Parliament, by March, legislation to set up a medical marijuana industry.
The prime minister said that only foreign entities have shown interest so far and encouraged Vincentian businesses to get on board.
The prime minister, however, said that his government is not considering as yet the decriminalisation of marijuana for recreational and religious use.