Cannabis Bills, 2018 - The Perspective of a Traditional Grower
In discussing issues of cannabis, I always like to begin from the premise of the traditional grower, from the premise of that class of people who earn their livelihood by their illicit engagement in the plant, be it as a grower, a boat man, a smuggler, or the brother or sister who sells cannabis on the blocks, mainly in and around our urban communities. Because that’s where I’ve belong for the past forty-five odd years.
With the announcement by the government of SVG to make medical cannabis legal, the struggles surrounding cannabis have taken a different turn. Perhaps this is best captured in Jomo’s article in Vincentian, dated 30th November, 2018, “You know the world is changing when those who at every turn embrace your cause and attempt to adopt it as their own. They may even try to deny that you ever championed what they now embrace on the hussle”. Thanks Jomo!
The issues of contention surrounding this move towards move are based primarily around the following:
1. That only foreign investors and a small privilege few stand to benefit from this industry
That’s a lie! The reality is, we will be building an export oriented industry, with the participation of foreigners, who perhaps know best what the market requires, and, who, unlike our locals, have the monies, as well as the scientific know how, required to do so.
In addition, the law gives traditional cultivators the legal right to cultivate medical cannabis on premises up to five acre per traditional cultivator. And, according to Clause 58, section 5 of the draft, “The authority shall through alliances with other local entities and in an effort to facilitate the licensing process provide such technical assistance to traditional cultivators.” Clause 58 section 6 also says, “The authority shall also promote the development of medical cannabis projects with traditional cultivators who may require such assistance as a substitute mechanism for the growth of illicit cannabis.”
Indeed, Cabinet has gone as far as to establish a special committee headed by the Hon Minister of Lands Mongomery Daniel, and include the Chief Surveyor, to look into making lands available to traditional cultivators. These positions have been taken, thanks in a large way to the intervention of reps of the Church of Nyabinghi and CRC at the level of the Select Committee.
Then, there is the Amnesty Law. This law is intended to put some well needed monies in the hands of the traditional cultivator by allowing him/her to legally sell his existing crop and to cultivate cannabis for one year to sell to exporting investors for the extraction of oils for medicines.
So the benefits go well beyond foreign investors.
2. That a medical cannabis industry, without decriminalization/recreation, will not work. It will not, as a solution, because the ultimate must be total legalization, which hinges on other things.
Well, if the absence of decriminalization is the reason for opposition towards the Medical cannabis bill, the opponents need to think again. In the first place, they are not helping traditional cultivators, whom they profess to want to, by so doing. Yes, it is important to advance the cause, but let it not be to the disadvantage of our traditional cultivators. And that’s a fundamental difference between me and them. They do not see the interrelation between the two, and the importance of strategy in going forward. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to allow our thoughts to operate in a vacuum. My own thoughts on the recreational issue is guided by certain existing facts, and are driven by what prevail at a given moment.
The prevailing ones:
- The conventions of the UN on narcotic drugs disallows decriminalization, and contravening them carries the risk of international sanctions.
- Traditional cultivators are faced with severe economic hardship, which has the potential of serious social fall out to the disadvantage of our people and nation.
- Growers are protected by law, which also compelled foreign investors to purchase, at least one tenth of their export from traditional cultivators.
- Pole results show that while there is broad unity among our population on the move to medical cannabis, there is deep disunity amongst them on decriminalization, a factor to the detriment of the unity of our people and nation.
- Medical cannabis creates a spring board for a deepen of the process towards total legalization.
- And last, but not least, decriminalization, if not carefully thought out, can lead to a small privilege minority controlling the decriminalized market.
Now, I want to focus on the latter, because it is behind this issue of recreational smoking that the mainstream opponents of a medical cannabis industry, without decriminalization, is masquerading as they attempt to undermine the process for party political and other selfish means, while claiming to defend the interest of traditional cultivators.