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Ganja seeds handover, huge milestone in Caricom says UWI’s Dr Emmanuel

Ganja seeds handover, huge milestone in Caricom says UWI’s Dr Emmanuel
TRADITIONAL FARMERS, Dr Emmanuel, Robert Wright, Dr Jerrol Thompson, and agriculture minister, Saboto Caesar pose for the symbolic handing over of the seeds

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In 2015 Jamaica embarked on a pathway to decriminalize cannabis, and in 2016 the Cannabis Licensing Authority was established. This move was followed by the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines in 2018 when it published and gazetted the Medicinal Cannabis Bill, and subsequently, established the Medicinal Cannabis Authority in 2019.

Principal investigator of Life Science Cannabis Group in the Department of Life Science, at The University of the West Indies Mona Campus, Dr. Machel Emmanuel, commended the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines(SVG), in following in the footsteps of Jamaica with the establishment of a vertically integrated value chain industry, from seed to sale. He made this commendation last Saturday September 18, as he addressed a ceremony for the hand over of cannabis seeds to the Medicinal Cannabis Authority for use by traditional growers.

“Jamaica, St. Vincent [and the Grenadines]have always had cannabis as an indicator value species, and the word ganja in these two countries does have numerous connotations. It is not just a plant; it is a way of life; it is an expression; it is a culture,” Dr. Emmanuel said.
He pointed to the relaxation of legislation by first-world countries, “due to medical persuasion, but in third world countries including the Caribbean, it has been slightly different. Restorative justice has been the motive, and economic stimulation.”

Emmanuel, who is Vice-Chair of the Jamaica Bureau of Standards Cannabis Technical Committee, noted that the handing over of the seeds was the first movement in Caricom of cannabis germplasm, regarded as “a huge milestone in the development of the Caribbean cannabis economy”.

“We have seen over the past thirty years, intra-regional trade has been its lowest, and with cannabis being the most valuable horticultural, agricultural commodity within this region, have possibly been the most intra-regionally traded horticultural commodity in its raw state and catch the highest value”, he added.

According to Dr. Emmanuel, “it is good to see that we can cross overboard and move cannabis throughout the Caribbean legally, through the airport and customs.”

Also addressing last Saturday’s ceremony was Director of Steephill Labs in Jamaica Robert Wright, who said that his farm produces seeds which are needed for the restoration and renewal of farms in SVG.

According to Wright who is also an official of the Pure Jamaica Group of Companies, “This donation would not have been possible without the collaboration, support, encouragement of our regulator in Jamaica the Cannabis Licensing Authority; our Customs; [and] Caribbean Airlines. This really required a joint effort of so many government agencies and organisations.”

This country’s Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar told the assembled gathering of traditional farmers that, “it was not new for Dr. Emmanuel to reach out to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to assist us. In fact one of the first offers for assistance received by the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the embryonic stages of the discussion to establish a modern wellness industry, particularly the medicinal cannabis industry in our country, came from Dr. Emmanuel.

“I would like to thank Dr. Emmanuel and Mr. Wright for reaching out to us in our time of need, for it is usually said a friend in need is a friend indeed.”

The contact was made by way of an e-mail to the Ministry of Agriculture, to which Minister Caesar followed up a few day later with a telephone call.

During that conversation, Dr. Emmanuel gave the minister the assurance that he would make himself available to assist “if we needed the assistance in anything as it pertains to the crafting of the policy, and the framework,”Caesar said.

He said he did not want persons to think that “the brothers here only coming to the successful stage of the industry, but they were there from the beginning.”

Dr. Emmanuel, himself a traditional farmer, commended the government of SVG for the decision to establish a modern medicinal cannabis industry.

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