A senior Crown Counsel in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is pouring cold water on suggestions that chronically ill persons would visit the country to receive medical marijuana treatment.
Carl Williams, who has long called for reform of SVG’s marijuana laws, said that with changes taking place internationally, the Vincentian parliament is “in a heated rush to bring three cannabis related bills to the House of Assembly and members of Parliament are busy talking about a glorious medical marijuana industry for St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“One Member of Parliament has stated that with the AIA (Argyle International Airport), St Vincent and the Grenadines would have a fine opportunity to move towards medical tourism,” Williams told an event in West St. George on Saturday, where he analysed the three marijuana bills expected to be approved in Parliament on Thursday.
The Government of SVG and private investors will separately build a hotel each in the Mt Wynne-Peters Hope area, located on the western coast of St. Vincent.
Vincentian diplomat, Ellsworth John had said early last year that the Canadian investors building one of the resorts are hoping to offer medical marijuana services there when the hotel comes on stream.
Meanwhile, Williams, a Crown Counsel in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, said the Member of Parliament to whom he referred “believes the Mt. Wynne-Peters Hope area would be utilised as a high-end medical tourism facility or a pharmaceutical haven, using marijuana as an ingredient for persons diagnosed with severe chronic illnesses.
“However, in real life the opposite happens. I am not so brilliant because I would not think that persons with severe chronic illnesses would come to a hotel room in SVG to get medical marijuana, they come to get what is called recreational marijuana, the stuff that the authorities want to keep off the streets.”
Williams said cannabis legislation is moving at a rapid pace and as these laws evolve, the need for members of the community to become informed and engaged is of paramount importance.
“This is the moment in time when you will hear from the experts in botany, law and medicine. Many will present stories of the medical and monetary benefits derivative of cannabis and a cannabis industry, while a few will still express the old negative racist propaganda which led to the outlawing of cannabis in the 1930s,” he said.
He noted that in 2015 Uruguay became the first nation to legalize recreational cannabis, with Canada following in 2018.
More than 10 states in the United States have decriminalised or legalised cannabis for medicinal or recreational purposes.
In 2012 Colorado and Washington State became the first states to vote to legalise cannabis for recreational purposes and since that time more than eight states have followed, Williams pointed out.
He said Michigan became the 10th state to legalise cannabis, and this month, voters in Utah and Missouri also passed initiatives to legalise medical marijuana.
“The spread of cannabis law has resulted in a reform of U.S. drug policy and how it should be revolutionised, as citizens seek alternatives to draconian punitive criminal justice policies like we have here in SVG that have resulted in more incarceration and support more violence and criminal enterprises.
“Support for cannabis is reaching new heights in this year 2018,” he said, adding that more than 64 per cent of U.S. citizens are in favour of legalization.
“But what is happening here in SVG?” Williams said.
He said The Medicinal Cannabis Industry Act “is much steeper than the hills that the traditional farmer climbs to get to his marijuana fields.
“It is 100 per cent easier to get to the highest point in Morne Ronde and even more easier still to go Fanny and Duvallé”than to surmount the steep requirements for obtaining and maintaining a Traditional Cannabis License under this piece of legislation,” he said, mentioning some of the places where marijuana is grown in SVG, although most Vincentians remain clueless about their locations.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Williams as the Deputy Director of Public Prosecution.