The Unity Labour Party has outlined another option that it says would not have been opened to the Vincentian economy had it not been for the Argyle International Airport, which celebrated its first anniversary on Feb. 14.
“Without Argyle International, you couldn’t be dealing with the export of medical marijuana,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told a rally on Saturday night to celebrate the anniversary.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is in the discussion phase of setting up a medical marijuana industry.
The government is expected to ask Parliament to approve in March a bill that will decriminalise marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Gonsalves told the rally that exporting medical cannabis, there are some countries that may want the marijuana buds, but others want the extracts.
“But hear me this. Barbados ain’t supporting that. St. Lucia ain’t going there or Grenada. So if you have to send it to Canada, where Canada has said yes to medical marijuana, how are you going to in transit?
“If you didn’t have an international airport, what plane you going put them pon (on)? … We could only have gotten to talk about a medical marijuana industry for export, to sell the oils to Canada and I understand you can sell the bud there too, in England, I have been advised, is only the oils….
“I want everybody to understand that without Argyle International Airport, you couldn’t have an export medical marijuana industry,” he said.
The prime minister said that the industry for medical marijuana is one that the country has to address very carefully.
He said that in the United States, it is a federal offence to be in possession of marijuana although medicinal marijuana is legal in 20 states.
“But even in those states where you have the medical marijuana legal, you can’t put the money inside of a bank because the banks are controlled, regulated by the federal government out of Washington [,DC].”
He said that because the federal government in Canada has made the medical marijuana legal, persons in the trade are able to use the banking system there.
“You see why it is important to say we have to move carefully and regulate it properly? You understand me?” the prime minister said, adding that he has heard the talk that SVG should be marketed as “Sea, sand and weed”.
“One of the problems you will have is whether if you do it like that, that the payment could be made on the credit cards through American banks. Maybe, maybe not. You see why this thing you have to think it out carefully?
“So when I hear Patel Matthew and Israel Bruce say free up the weed completely, we are not an island unto ourselves,” the prime minister said.
Matthews, an opposition lawmaker, who is also Parliamentary Representative for North Leeward, and Bruce, a lawyer and opposition candidate for South Central Windward, has announced their support for decriminalisation of small portions of marijuana for recreational use.
“We have to move in a sensible and tactical manner.”
He told the rally that reaching a destination is not always via a straight line, although the shortest distance between two places, geometrically, is along a straight line.”
He said that the government should receive, by next week, the draft on the medical marijuana bill.
Officials will then study it in the government and consult with stakeholders and make changes and get it back to the draftsman and then “when we believe it is in the state of readiness to put it to the public, we will put it there and see if we can get it in time for Parliament for March 22 so that we can have the debates through the select committee,” the prime minister said.