Sunday, July 14, 2019 — The first set of licences to begin producing medicinal cannabis in St. Vincent and the Grenadines were issued this week. The island’s Minister of Agriculture and Industry, Hon. Saboto Caesar, embraced the milestone noting “many challenges amidst immense opportunities.”

“The journey over the past 20 months to put the legislative and administrative frameworks in place was certainly one of the most difficult, yet gratifying, tasks I have had the opportunity to lead in my career. It was not without major challenges,” said Minister Caesar.

The Agriculture Minister further noted that the step-by-step policy guidance from Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, and the significant support received from his Cabinet and parliamentary colleagues at different stages of the preparatory work, contributed to the successful opening of the industry.

The Rastafarian Community in St. Vincent and the Grenadines was also identified by the Minister as a “central pillar of strength” in guiding the interaction over the period of consultation.

Throughout the process, religious leaders, civil society and international legal and business experts participated in a very open and transparent consultation process to identify and outline the potential strengths and weaknesses of the different models. This included a reliance on knowledge in certification and commodity trading from companies such as Bunny Imports and Exports of Trinidad and Tobago. The Minister stated that the role of Junior “Spirit” Cottle and the Cannabis Revival Committee could not go unrecognised.

In the interview with News784, Minister Caesar was clear that, “the work has just started.” It is our mission in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to create a globally certified industry aimed at supplying medicinal cannabis products, targeting ailments based on evidence from clinical studies. The mantra is and will continue to be “A successful medicinal cannabis industry begins and ends with science.”

Stakeholders in the industry were encouraged to set extremely high standards in research and development, marketing, labour relations, environmental protection and general corporate responsibility.

“Surviving with no trade preferences, grappling with the resultant implications of climate change on cannabis cultivation, competing with global producers, effectively regulating the industry to satisfy national and international laws, continuing to ensure food safety and food security, while at the same time balancing many unique variables will become our day to day reality,” outlined Minister Caesar.

He however confidently stated that the Unity Labour Party administration does not shy away from challenges. “The successful completion of the Argyle International Airport; the education and housing revolutions; managing the transition from a monocrop to a diversified food production platform; the expansion of our tourism and health infrastructure; obtaining a seat as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council; and geothermal exploration are all evidence that once, as a people, we maintain our focus – we will achieve our goals.”

When asked if he was of the view that cannabis could lead to the establishment of another monocrop, Minister Caesar encouraged agriculture and fisheries stakeholders to “guard dearly our successes in the post-Hurricane Tomas rebuilding decade. Our exponential growth in fisheries, trade in livestock, food and nutrition security and efforts at food import substitution must all be further nurtured.”