How soon before St. Lucia Acts on Marijuana Regulation?
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.