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Local farmers must make money from ganja – PM

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THE LOCAL MEDICAl marijuana industry will not happen unless the local traditional cultivators can make a good dollar from the activity.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves made the assertion on Tuesday at the beginning of a meeting of the Select Committee considering three bills which are to facilitate the introduction of the medical marijuana industry in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

These Bills are the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Bill, The Cannabis Cultivation(Amnesty) Bill and the Permitted Use of Cannabis for Religious Purpose Bill.

In the context of the discussions that were about to take place among members of the Select Committee and with foreign investors present around the table, the Prime Minister sought to address some issues.

Gonsalves explained that the industry being proposed for SVG is primarily for export of the drug.

“The idea of building a marijuana industry based on local consumption, and tourists coming here, we would at best have, a cottage industry,” he stated.

“We are dealing with primarily, an export industry. It can’t be otherwise, given all the circumstances,” he stated.

In this context, Parliament would have to be wary of International Conventions on the subject, he stated.

One of the issues that were addressed, was why there was a need for investors who are not traditionally involved in the cultivation of ‘ganja’ in SVG. The Prime Minister propounded that the Investors would help with provision of technology appropriate for the industry, and “with resources for the capital investment in cultivation for medical grade marijuana,” and, extraction, among other things.

However, the Prime Minister added that the project will fail, “if the investors do not appreciate the necessity and desirability for them to interface with traditional growers.”

“It doesn’t mean that the authority would not grant you a license for your own cultivation, but clearly you’re going to be required, as a condition of the license, to buy a certain portion of whatever medical cannabis you are buying, from traditional cultivators, because they have to make a living from it too, and I hope that that is understood,” Gonsalves said, addressing the Investors.

As an example, he noted the traditional cultivator is going to need start up assistance with planting and security provided they have suitable land.

On the other hand, Gonsalves acknowledged that there would have to be contracts between the investors and cultivators as the investors are not charitable institutions, saying what has been invested would have to be paid back over the time of the contract.

He also cautioned that no licence would be granted to anyone who wants to get a license simply to raise money as an entrepreneur.

“Raise your money, and come to the table,” the Prime Minister said.

He reiterated the importance of local cultivators as part of the process.

“But I think it is important that I make that with crystal clarity, it will not happen unless the local traditional cultivator can make a good dollar from the activity,” he said, addition that the traditional cultivators license is meant to be implemented as a way for the group to have a say.

“The Government doesn’t borrow money from people to plant oranges… why must we borrow money to help the traditional farmer to plant medical cannabis? So it has to be a relation with the private sector entity,” the Prime Minister said.

He said that the Government has a clear idea how they wish to proceed, and that the industry has its own peculiarity, and is unlike others, listing as examples the banana and tourism industry.

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