By Robertson S. Henry
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent — On Thursday September 6, 2018, three Bills dealing with the cannabis industry were tabled in the St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) parliament, namely, the Cannabis Cultivation (Amnesty) Bill, 2018, the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Bill, and the Permitted Use of Cannabis for Religious Purposes Act (2018).
The minister of agriculture presented the Bills for first reading, which were then sent to a select committee. This occasion was followed by thousands of persons in the community.
In an interview with representatives from Acres Agri, who were in the strangers’ gallery for the tabling of the Bills, congratulations were expressed to the people of SVG for the bold step.
Acres Agri has been physically present in SCG since January 2018, assessing the opportunities available from a possible emerging cannabis industry.
The company has an office in Arnos Vale and has conducted training of 100 young persons in basic cannabis technology, having conducted scientific testing of several local strains of cannabis.
In an interview with Reginald Spaulding of Acres Agri, he noted that the tabling of the three bills signifies the government’s readiness to make this industry a reality for the benefit of Vincentians.
According to Spaulding: “These Bills are not just important from a criminal legislation point of view, but important to the socio-economic development of the island. Acres Agri is present and will be following all developments regarding the tabling of, and expected passage of the Bills.”
The Permitted Use of Cannabis for Religious Purposes Act, 2018, “is to provide for the decriminalization of the use of cannabis as a sacrament in adherence to a religious practice by such religious bodies as may be prescribed by order of the minister.
“This includes but is not limited to, the Rastafarian faith, at their place of worship, and at an event declared by an order of the minister to be an exempt event, for the purposes of this Act and for matters and purposes incidental thereto.”
The Cannabis Cultivation (Amnesty) Bill, 2018, “provides for an Act to grant an amnesty, for the period commencing on August 1, 2018 and ending on July 31, 2019 or such further period as the House of Assembly may determine by resolution.
“This will be granted to persons engaged in the cultivation of cannabis, contrary to section 8 of the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act, and any other relevant enactment, who may otherwise be liable to criminal prosecution for certain criminal offences and other relevant enactment in force.”
In tabling the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Bill, Agriculture Minister Sabato Caesar explained that it “is to provide for the establishment of a medicinal cannabis industry to regulate the supply, possession and use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
“That is, for the treatment of persons with qualifying medical conditions; to provide for the establishment of the Medicinal Cannabis Authority and the Medicinal Cannabis Advisory Council; and for matters and purposes incidental thereto.”
The three Bills are now headed to a Select Committee.