By Dr J. Edsel Edmunds
I recall reading several articles in the St Lucia Press advocating the cultivation of hemp as an economic enterprise. I do not know what progress has been made in this regard, but suspect that it has been mistakenly caught up in the crusade against marijuana. It should have been cleared by now by our local and regional experts and governmental authorities that hemp is not marijuana. It is a distinct variety of the plant species Cannabis sativa L. that contains minimal (less than 1%) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinas the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Dr Joseph E. Edmunds is a former Senior Research Fellow, UWI, St Augustine Campus; former Director of Research and Development, WINBAN; former Ambassador of St Lucia. He is currently Consultant and Senior Advisor to The Edmunds Group International, LLC (www.theedmundsgroup.com)
It has been published in scientific journals that hemp oil is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (highest in the plant kingdom) – Omega 3 and 6, and that hemp products include textiles, paper, paints, clothing, plastics, cosmetics, “Mega Soaps”, the beauty industry, food stuffs, and animal feed. Hemp seeds are already sold as snacks and the fibre is used as building compost to replace fiber glass and concrete.
According to an article by Juliet Eilprin, which appeared in the Washington Post of January 14, the Canadian government recently invested $100,000 in marketing hemp and researching which varieties would thrive in different regions. The article further reports that the US ranks as the world’s leading consumer of hemp products with a total sales exceeding $44 million in 2011 and that 11 states have passed measures removing barriers to hemp production and research and that 99% of the US supply comes from Canada.
In the light of the above, the advocates for hemp production as an economic enterprise should be given support to assist in our agricultural diversification. I therefore recommend that we establish a task force (to include the necessary technical personnel) to put into action a hemp industry in keeping with land capability, market demand for well defined hemp products, a management structure, licensed and registered growers in keeping with a well structured plan of action, for it is reported that hemp grows quickly under a wide geographic range without requiring much water, fertilizers and pesticides. What is keeping up back?
The Edmunds Group has recommended the above to working associates in the Caribbean and Africa.