Only five to six million dollars of the 15 to 16 million dollars that authorities in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have approved for medical marijuana licences have reached the state coffers, says Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.
His comments on Tuesday came just over a month after Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves told a rally to mark the 25th anniversary of the ruling Unity Labour Party, that the country “has earned already” $15 million in ganja cultivation licence fees.
The finance minister said that he had asked Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar, last year, about his projections for the first year of the industry.
The finance said Caesar told him that the industry had just started and he was anticipating about $5 million.
“Already this year, five million, we gone past that; 10 million, we gone past that; 15 million dollars Saboto Caesar has earned already in licence fees from the medical cannabis industry, and we are just getting started,” he told the thousands of persons at the decommissioned ET Joshua Airport in Arnos Vale.
However, speaking on Hot 97 FM on Tuesday, the prime minister said:
“One of the problems is this. Some entities which have received licences, some overseas entities, and the value of the licences issued thus far is about 15-16 million [dollars] but we haven’t collected that. We have collected about 5-6 million. The reason being — you can’t pay the money in US dollars. No bank will touch it because of the federal government regulations and you don’t want Bank of America or Bank of New York not to give you corresponding banking relationship.”
The prime minister said that banks in SVG, like the Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which have corresponding banking relationships with Bank of America and Bank of New York, are very careful how they process monies coming for medical marijuana licences.
“If they are paid in Canadian dollars through Canadian Dominion and Canadian Dominion accepts money in Canada, I have been advised, from the medical cannabis industry so they don’t mind transmitting the money for you if the cheque issued in US dollars.
“So, some licences have been issued and people are ready to pay the money but they have to go through a particular route, so all those arrangements,” the prime minister said.
He continued: “There are some local people who have arrangements with some from overseas but who can’t operate properly yet because they don’t have in their hands, even though their license is issued, the licence is issued on the condition that you pay this money, but if the money ain’t reach the Medical Cannabis Authority, you don’t have the licence for operational purposes.”