A longstanding advocate for cannabis law reform has dismissed concerns that the establishment of a medical marijuana industry in St. Vincent and the Grenadines could destroy “local species” of the plant.
In fact, Junior “Spirit” Cottle told iWitness News that there is no Vincy strain of marijuana.
On Tuesday, iWitness News asked Cottle to respond to concerns by opposition senator, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste that this could be a consequence of the Medical marijuana Amnesty Bill expected to be passed in Parliament next week.
“Don’t bother with that talk. Foolishness. It ain’t have no Vincy strain here. Ask any grower that,” Cottle said.
“All the ganja that is in St. Vincent, from time to time, seeds have been coming from Jamaica, seeds have been coming from America, from Canada and because of the concentration of cannabis growers, because of the proximity, ganja is always being cross-pollinated so that cross-pollination has been affecting ganja thought the country. So there is nothing like a Vincy strain.”
He said that the cannabis grown in SVG “is indeed St. Vincent ganja because it has the soil, it has the climate, it has the resources put into it from here, including the human resources, which is most important, so you have those elements in it, so based on that, you can develop a Vincy strain.”
Cottle said that the professionals in that area can speak more to the process through which a new strain of a plant is developed.
“… but I have met more than one investor who has shown interest in this,” he said.
“Not just for the sake of St. Vincent having its own unique strain but for the purpose of marketing: marketing St. Vincent, marketing the volcano, marketing the soil, marketing the people. So the potential looks very good in developing a local strain and have it patented — if that’s the correct word to use.”
Cottle, however, suggested that much of the marijuana currently grown in SVG would not meet the medical marijuana standard because it is “laced with pesticides, dangerous pesticides”.
Last Friday, speaking on her New Democratic Party’s “New Times” programme on NICE Radio, Bacchus-Baptiste, who was a member of the select committee that reviewed the draft law, expressed concerns about the implications of the amnesty law.
The law offers amnesty for farmers who have already planted marijuana illegally up to the time that the law comes into effect.
Under this law, they are allowed to sell the marijuana legally to the medical cannabis sector, if they meet the required standard.
However, as part of this process, farmers must complete a form which includes the grower’s full name, address, national identification number, the location of the land on which the cannabis is cultivated or, if harvested, the premises where the cannabis is stored.
The grower must also indicate the quantity of cannabis under cultivation or, if harvested, the quantity of cannabis that is stored at the premises and a declaration to the effect that the farmer has been acting in contravention of section 8 of the Drugs Prevention of Misuse act.
Bacchus-Baptiste asked what would the government do with the marijuana that does not meet the standard.
“We will bring in one that has to be grown in greenhouses and stuff in order for them to flourish. Destroy what we have and what you think would happen? We can’t compete no more and just like what happen to our bananas. Those people would just shift to America and America would just totally legalise it, we won’t be able to compete and we would be like the banana industry.”
The senator said this cannot be permitted and called on all CARICOM governments to get together and protect the marijuana industry, in especially St. Vincent and Jamaica.
“I’m calling on the experts in the University of the West Indies. Let us have them scientifically look at it and analyse it and decide whether or not our herb could also be used for medicinal purposes, not just accept what those from outside come in and tell us. That would be a travesty and we would not be looking forward. We have to save the industry, definitely,” the opposition senator said.