Historic day for St. Vincent Parliament with marijuana debate

KINGSTOWN, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES; MONDAY DECEMBER 10, 2018 The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Parliament met in session today Monday December 10, 2018, with top of the orders of the day for debate, being The Medicinal Cannabis Industry Bill 2018, and the Cannabis Cultivation (Amnesty) Bill 2018.

The third bill – the Permitted Use of Cannabis for Religious Purpose Bill 2018, was shelved for, according to Prime Minister and Leader of Government Business Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, the Rastafarian community made pertinent representation on the use of cannabis for religious purposes.

In presenting the Bills, Minister for Agriculture Saboto Caesar, told the House Sitting ACP countries have been grappling with agriculture production for many years.

He noted that cannabis cultivation, as an addition to the list of agricultural products from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, is a positive expansion of the country's agricultural sector and that there is an opening for a modern medicinal cannabis industry.

There was plenty of cross talk, especially when the Opposition parliamentarian Honourable Patel Mathews took to the microphone. He reiterated the earlier made statement that it was a historic day for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the day’s sitting presented a unique opportunity to fashion an industry, where the traditional cultivators would be major players.

Health Minister Senator Luke Brown spoke extensively on the health issues and functions of the Advisory Board within the Bill.

Senator Carlos James reminded members of the statement that he made in the House five years ago and which was captured in The Vincentian Newspaper that the new international airport could spur on a cannabis industry. He went on to state that, through extensive research, cannabis is now proven to be containing valuable medicinal properties.

Senator James called for the conversation outside the walls of Parliament to continue, while during his turn at the microphone, Leader of the Opposition Dr. the Honourable Godwin Friday spoke of the changing international environment and its effect on small island states.

Opposition Member of Parliament Honourable Sinclair Leacock pointed out that many were misled about marijuana in times past, and he disagreed with Minister Camillo Gonsalves' statement earlier this year, that marijuana, stripped of its illegality, is just another crop.

He chided the government for being too cautious, and took swipes at the government for the absence of clarity on the make-up of the four committee members on the Board. He questioned the absence of the traditional cultivator on the Board, and that there are persons on the Board who are not producers; making decisions which will affect the traditional cultivator.

Minister of Lands Honourable Montgomery Daniel told the House Sitting that the Chief Surveyor, upon a request, gave him the list of pieces of government owned lands. The total acreage of lands is approximately 3,500 acres.

Minister Daniel also gave members an outline of the various classes of licenses available in the Medicinal Cannabis Bill, and the benefits which could be derived, when the arrowroot industry is combined with the medicinal industry. He informed members that arrowroot powder is the base used in many pharmaceuticals, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines is well poised to take full advantage of such a combination.

The debate on the draft Medicinal Cannabis Industry Bill 2018, and the Cannabis Cultivation (Amnesty) Bill 2018, respectively is expected to conclude tomorrow Tuesday December 11, 2018 when the House Sitting resumes at 09:30 a.m. 

Photo: Robertson S. Henry
Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar going over documents during a break in the historic Debate on Monday December 10, 2018

(Robertson S. Henry)