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Medical doctor claims SVG can benefit from medicinal marijuana

Medical doctor claims SVG can benefit from medicinal marijuana

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While most investors think that returns on investments these days are downright dismal, weed, or in more diplomatic terms, medicinal marijuana, seems to be going against the grain.

Dr Hance Clarke, FRCPC, of Toronto, Canada, addressing an investment forum yesterday, said if Vincentians are looking for something to invest in, medicinal marijuana is the way to go.

Clarke is in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) meeting with government officials in relation to the administration’s move to establish a medicinal marijuana industry here.

Yesterday, he met at Cabinet Room with a wide cross section of the Vincentian community, including farmers, musicians, financiers, lawyers and businessmen who have an interest in the medicinal marijuana industry.

Clarke, the director of Pain Services and the medical director of the Pain Research Unit at the Toronto General Hospital, told the gathering that the Government’s idea of using medicinal marijuana to create jobs and generate wealth is well in line with what is happening internationally, in places like Canada.

“This industry has created wealth for a multitude of persons and I am excited to be here…the industry will snowball,” said the Vincentian born medical doctor, who is appointed to the Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Toronto and is a graduate of the Royal College Clinician Scientist Programme.

He said that Canada is making huge strides in the medicinal marijuana industry and countries like SVG can benefit as, “we (Canada) cannot grow it as fast as we can sell it.”

However, for SVG to take advantage of the growing industry that is currently generating billions of legal dollars in taxes in developing countries, several things have to be put in place, including Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and Good Clinical Practice (GCP) standards and teaming up with investors among numerous other initiatives.

When asked how soon SVG can start to benefit from the industry, Clarke commented that it all depends on how the country wants to move forward as a population.

“If you bring a big body of the local investors forward, you would get to jumpstart the early process, but I think you will need help to move fast to get to the globalization scale,” said Dr Clarke, whose research interests include identifying novel acute pain treatments following major surgery, identifying the factors involved in the transition of acute postsurgical pain to chronic pain and studying the genetics of acute and chronic pain after surgery.

However, Clarke said he is not sure how much money SVG may need to kickstart the medicinal marijuana industry here, so homework must be done to find out which structure this country wants to begin with.

The options include, among other things, growing and selling to a buyer for exportation, growing and producing medicinal marijuana products locally, or growing and exporting a special type of marijuana.

“Is it going to be the GMP facility type production, or is it going to be the production…the cultivation side runs most of the game, so it just depends on how the Government wants to put it together,” said Clarke, who over the past five years has authored 47 peer reviewed manuscripts. 

He said that in Canada, the industry is a $7 billion industry, even before the Government steps in and it is anticipated that the industry will grow to a $100 billion industry as more players become involved.

“If you are even to take a percentage of that, you are looking at a $1 billion (in taxes) just in what the marketplace can become from the utilization of cannabis,” he said.

Clarke said that money is there to be made by countries like SVG, but that also depends on how the “global dominoes fall, as you build an industry here”.

Commenting, Minister of Agriculture, Labour, nd Industry etc Saboto Caesar said that the meeting was this country’s first local investment forum, the first of a five-part series, aimed at educating, sensitizing and engaging locals.

“The objective is to provide information for local investors and to inform investment decisions. The Government is encouraging locals to form companies and joint ventures. We must not be afraid to invest,” said Caesar, who is also chair of the National Medicinal Cannabis Industry Committee.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves told the gathering that two surveys done show that locals are slowly shifting their support towards weed for medicinal purposes, but he has to proceed, not on his own, but while listening to the voice of the people.

Gonsalves said that the aim of getting involved in medicinal marijuana is to create jobs and generate wealth through an industry, hence the direct involvement of Minister Caesar as the Minister of Agriculture, Industry and Labour.

He, however, added that the discussion is on medicinal marijuana and not decriminalization, as both things have to be tackled scientifically and properly managed.

“Jamaica did both and now they are having some issues and we believe it was the conflating. We have to properly manage this thing,” said the Prime Minister, whose government is moving towards having legislation on medicinal marijuana before Parliament by March this year.(LC)

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