Farmer seeks compensation for destroyed marijuana plants
by Lyf Compton
The hurt exuding from Hamilton Edwards was palpable.
When he visited SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday, you could almost feel his anguish.
Edwards is the Fitz Hughes resident who had his marijuana plantation at Golden Vale, Chateaubelair destroyed on Tuesday January 14, by members of the local constabulary. His two employees were also detained but were later released without charge.
The field was destroyed despite the government’s policy and promise to allow growers to be part of an amnesty as the country transitions into the medicinal cannabis industry.
“I’m hurt, I’m very very hurt…I said to the guys come out the hills because since 2001 Ralph (Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves) say them man should come out of the hills and they agree with me and they decided to plant,” Hamilton said.
He said the decision by the police to destroy his field, despite his being told and encouraged by President of the Cannabis Revival Committee (CRC) Junior “Spirit” Cottle to plant weed, has set him back and he is seeking compensation.
“I got permission to plant marijuana and I took the opportunity because I have no other income,” Hamilton explained while adding that he was surprised to hear his field had been destroyed when he returned from running errands in Kingstown last week Tuesday.
He said he has so far invested over EC$8000 in the medicinal cannabis project and he had about 60 pounds of marijuana stored.
“We got advice to store the marijuana…I not sure how many trees because they cut down every living one. They stick the guys up with guns, made them drop the cutlasses, and take the same cutlasses and cut down the marijuana.
“They enter into the building without a search warrant and got the marijuana and take them outside and burn them. They took some and burn some and leave the balance in the field on the ground,” Hamilton said of the police officers who raided the field.
He said the money he spent was used to pay workers’ wages, provide them with meals and buy manure among other things.
“To plant marijuana is not an easy thing. It costly and the volume of the marijuana we had there could have been around EC$70,000 to EC$80,000,” said Hamilton who noted that head of the Medical Cannabis Authority (MCA) Dr Jerrol Thompson reached out to him and made it clear that the MCA had nothing to do with the destruction.
Hamilton, who lived in Venezuela for a year said he was a supporter of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration from 2001 but stopped supporting the party in 2005 after he was fired from his job as a bus driver.
He said he began supporting the ULP because Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves kept a promise back in 2001 to pay severance to employees, formerly attached to the Rabacca Farms on the North Windward end, and Wallilabou and Richmond Estates in Central and North Leeward respectively.
“I planted banana, dasheen, sweet potato, eddoes, for survival but I am not doing anything because we lost the market for banana so as I get the opportunity with the medicinal weed, I take it,” Hamilton explained while adding that he paid the EC$100 registration fee with the MCA then paid EC$120 to get the license which is currently being processed.
“The investor say store the marijuana because around next month Gonsalves going to issue the license,” said Hamilton.
He added that he thinks his field was targeted because on Monday January 13, his son provided an electricity connection for parliamentary representative for North Leeward Roland “Patel” Matthews to have a political meeting. Hamilton said he and his son are both supporters of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP).
“It is strange that Tuesday [my field] was destroyed by the police when they did not get permission from the Prime Minister, I can guarantee that. They ain’t get no permission from the Commissioner, I guarantee that, so is one of the ULP supporters who make that happen,” Hamilton opined. He added that a field owned by someone else, less than five yards away from his, was not touched.
“I am seeking compensation. The workers know I’m the one who does support them. At morning is my face they looking in for something to eat, they need manure is my pocket the money coming, they not working anywhere, we ain’t selling any marijuana so …[at the end of] the week I will give them $200 to $300 each,” Hamilton said.
He added that he invested part of his life savings as he was promised returns from the industry and he is hoping to talk to the Prime Minister and Commissioner of Police Colin John as he does not want to listen to rumours and would like to know the truth about what really happened.
“I have nothing against the Prime Minister and to be honest Ralph Gonsalves is one of the brightest politicians in the Caribbean, nobody has to tell me that, I see it for myself, but somewhere something is wrong.
“The police cannot take advice from somebody out there on the street. The Commissioner supposed to give them advice, not from someone in the road because is someone in the road because the police don’t know me,” stressed Hamilton.
He said the quality of the marijuana that was destroyed was high but, “We did this to get something and we end up with nothing. I took my workers from the hills and encouraged them where Spirit tell us to plant because the investors want it.”