How soon be­fore St. Lu­cia Acts on Mar­i­juana Reg­u­la­tion?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - Joshua St. Aimee

Come De­cem­ber 10, gov­ern­ment MPs in neigh­bour­ing Saint Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines are ex­pected to de­bate three mar­i­juana bills in their par­lia­ment: the Med­i­cal Cannabis In­dus­try Bill, the Cannabis Cul­ti­va­tion (Amnesty) Bill and the Per­mit­ted Use of Cannabis for Re­li­gious Pur­pose Bill. Ac­cord­ing to St. Vin­cent's agri­cul­ture min­istry, the bills are aimed at "the es­tab­lish­ment of a mod­ern medic­i­nal cannabis in­dus­try, a pe­riod of amnesty for cur­rent il­licit cul­ti­va­tors, and the us­age of cannabis as a sacra­ment within a place of wor­ship".

While the move does not al­low for the recre­ational use of the plant, the coun­try will join fel­low OECS mem­ber An­tigua to make pro­vi­sions for the reg­u­lated use of mar­i­juana. This will also in­crease the num­ber of CARICOM coun­tries that have passed mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion to three, Ja­maica be­ing the first.

Could Saint Lu­cia be next in line to en­act sim­i­lar changes to make pro­vi­sions for the plant's use? When the House of Assem­bly last met in Novem­ber, it ap­proved a mo­tion to bor­row $13 mil­lion from the Caribbean Devel­op­ment Bank (CDB), to hire the Malaysian con­sul­tancy firm PEMANDU. The con­sul­tants are tasked with con­duct­ing work­shops and de­vel­op­ing a medi­umterm devel­op­ment strat­egy fo­cus­ing on health­care, ed­u­ca­tion, crime, in­fra­struc­ture, tourism, and agri­cul­ture.

Un­der the area of agri­cul­ture, cannabis reg­u­la­tions were iden­ti­fied, and the sub­ject given its own two-week work­shop. It brought to­gether mem­bers of the is­land's cannabis move­ment and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the gov­ern­ment and po­lice force. The move­ment di­a­logued with a fa­cil­i­ta­tor from PEMANDU and pro­vided in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing a route to le­gal­iza­tion. The group's chair­man, An­dre De Caires, says that the gen­eral over­view in­cluded pro­jec­tions on how much can be earned, how much tax the gov­ern­ment would gen­er­ate, and the es­tab­lish­ment of a co­op­er­a­tive.

"They're not bring­ing ideas to the ta­ble,” said DeCaires. "They're just set­ting it up in a way it would sell re­ally well to the gov­ern­ment. We pro­vided them the in­for­ma­tion but they put it to­gether."

One ma­jor pri­or­ity pointed out by DeCaires is the as­sur­ance that those who al­ready sell and grow mar­i­juana for a liv­ing will be in­volved. “You don't want to take bread out of those peo­ples' mouths,” he said. “That's ex­actly what you don't want to do. You want to turn those peo­ple from crim­i­nals into le­git­i­mate busi­ness peo­ple. We're not say­ing other peo­ple can't get in­volved now but they have to go to the back of the line.”

The next step is for the con­sul­tants to present to gov­ern­ment min­is­ters. Mr. DeCaires said he ad­vised that Au­gust next year should be the lat­est for le­gal­iza­tion, ex­plain­ing that po­ten­tial in­vestors have other op­tions else­where. He is con­fi­dent that le­gal­iza­tion will go through, once gov­ern­ment accepts what is put for­ward.

An­dre Decaires, chair­man of Saint Lu­cia's Cannabis Move­ment.

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