The Christian Council is raising questions about “the imperialistic and neo-colonial undertones” of the proposed medical marijuana industry in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
On Monday, the Christian Council issued its second statement this year about the proposed industry.
The SVG Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, the Association of Evangelical Churches, and the Spiritual Baptist Archdiocese endorsed the statement.
The statement comes even as a select committee of Parliament, of which the Christian Council is a part, is reviewing medical marijuana legislation.
The group, however, said that its participation in the committee is not an endorsement of the proposed change of the law.
The council said there is good reason to anticipate a windfall of revenues in the preliminary years of the medical marijuana industry.
“… however, have we sufficiently considered the possibility and implications of having large marijuana farms and no markets — because companies have pulled out?” the council said.
It said the regulations seek to tie the cultivation necessarily to the supply and consider potential areas of breach.
“… have we given sufficient consideration that variations in implementation can very well leave us with plantations and not ready markets? Have we considered the possibility that marijuana can become our new banana — where, we have little or no market advantage to compete with other countries with larger farms and cheaper products?” the Christian Council said.
“Or have we considered, as scientifically as practicable, that the science regarding marijuana is relatively ‘young’ and as such with increasing acceptance and access comes greater research and scrutiny which gives rise to research claims like that of the American College of Cardiology who contend that marijuana use is associated with increased risk of stroke and heart failure?
“To what extent have we considered marijuana’s complex nature and its evolution over the years to a less ‘natural’ and more potent drug and the implications this has on the longevity of the ‘industry?”
The council said that as the research emerges, is it possible that this increasingly “‘unnatural herb’ and the discovery of the nature and impact of the various components of marijuana can leave us with products and a substantially changed weed and drug culture to negotiate? This also is a question of sufficiency of research and responsible speculation.”
‘neo-colonial undertones to this new ‘cash cow’’
The council also asked if SVG has considered “the imperialistic and neo-colonial undertones to this new ‘cash cow’”.
It also asked the public to consider to what extent, in its quest to have a windfall, is SVG “pandering to, and perpetuating an ideological and existential phenomenon built on principles of exploitation and manipulation using money and monetisation as the primary medium”.
“Have we sufficiently considered the possibility that the global landscape of this industry is about making space for large companies and corporations who determine the regulatory framework, which create opportunity for them to capitalise while ensuring (whether deliberately or coincidentally) that the small man is excluded or marginal? A process which manipulatively uses the legitimate concern of protecting our youth and society from the proliferation of a narcotic.”
The council also asked about the extent to which SVG has analysed the narrative of drug use locally and globally, which, it said, reflects that in most jurisdictions, the significant at-risk demographic in the trade of narcotics and intoxicants are the poor.
“Research and observational data continues to reveal that the vast majority of wealth from alcohol and the drug trade reflects a major disproportion in profit versus use, since the more affluent benefit while the poor are the major consumers and disproportionately carry the burdens of abuse and dysfunction?
“As such, have we considered who (potentially) will be our greatest causalities in an environment where there will inevitably be an increased access to a narcotic, and correspondingly, who will prosper?
“Have we considered that this industry and the rapidly increasing interest in liberalisation has little to do with the ‘herb’ and its medicinal benefits or religious significance and ‘everything’ to do with the commercialisation of marijuana or, in some cases, of the commercialisation THC as a cash cow, since marijuana may have the greatest potential for creating legal space or loopholes to facilitate trade in a narcotic — a drug trade where millions of dollars are already being made?”
The council asked about lessons learnt from the tobacco industry?
“Is there a need, as part of this exploration and imperialism narrative, to monitor tobacco companies’ interest in the marijuana industry? How do we mitigate against them and others commercialising weed by introducing methods of making the product more appealing (such as menthol additives) and finding ways of optimising the psychoactive effect, ‘deliberately’ making it more addictive? Shouldn’t we ask these kinds of questions to avoid ‘biting off more than we can chew’?”
In February, one month before the marijuana law was initially expected to be tabled in Parliament, the council issued a statement expressing concern about government’s approach to medical weed.
“The haste at which the Government is moving on the matter gives a distinct impression that this is a ‘fait accompli’ and that public consultation is either for ‘rubber stamping’ or to fine-tune the forward thrust,” the council had said.
It also said that medical marijuana would not curb the demand for illegal marijuana in SVG.
“The assumption that current producers will abandon that illegal trade for a highly regulated alternative seems quite unlikely, the council had said.
In September, Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar, tabled three pieces of legislation related to the establishment of a medicinal cannabis industry in SVG.
The bills were sent to a select committee for review and are expected to be debated in Parliament later this year.
The bills came to Parliament almost six months later than expected. The Ralph Gonsalves administration had indicated its desire to have the relevant laws passed by March.
The prime minister has made it clear that his government would not legalise marijuana for recreational use at this time.
The main opposition New Democratic Party has suggested the position it would take on the bill.
Opposition Leader Godwin Friday said in January that the government must ensure that any medical marijuana industry established in SVG benefit citizens.