Parliament in St Vincent will meet on Thursday for the first reading of three pieces of legislation as the government continues its efforts to establish a medical marijuana industry.
Agriculture and Forestry Minister, Saboto Caesar will table The Medicinal Cannabis Industry Bill, The Cannabis Cultivation (Amnesty) Bill, and The Permitted Use of Cannabis for Religious Purpose Bill, a few months after the Ralph Gonsalves administration had indicated a desire to have the relevant laws passed by March.
The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has already said that the government must ensure that any medical marijuana industry established in St. Vincent and the Grenadines benefits the citizens.
“Whatever happens with the developments with respect to medical marijuana … or those persons here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines who are engaged in providing products to the people who may make medicine and so on, whatever we do has to benefit our people,” Friday said in january.
“It can’t be a situation where you’re simply inviting multinational pharmaceutical corporations to essentially come and dominate an industry that our local people here can benefit from,” he added then.
His remarks come amidst reports that Canadian investors, who are building a resort here, have indicated their desire to offer medical marijuana treatment when the facility becomes operational.
The opposition spokesperson on agriculture, Roland “Patel” Matthews, has also accused the Gonsalves government of embracing marijuana out of convenience.
Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves outlined the government’s position on the marijuana issue when during his budget presentation he told legislators “unregulated consumption of recreational marijuana poses a number of risks and challenges that we do not currently have the data on which to make informed decisions, or the capacity to manage effectively”.
Last month, Prime Minister Gonslaves criticised the opposition’s approach to reforming of the marijuana laws, saying that he does not subscribe to the view that marijuana is the best thing that happened to this universe and all one has to do is smoke it and become wise.
“I am in the school which says that it has medicinal properties and we can make an industry out of that. I am also in the school that says there is a sacramental issue which we have to address with freedom of religion.”
The prime minister also told the media he was awaiting a document he had requested from the ministers of health and education for a programme on the abuse and misuse of marijuana and alcohol.
“Because once you are going to deal with the matter of using it for medicinal purposes and also legalising it as a sacrament and the issue become more and more on the agenda for recreational use, clearly, you have to abuse the misuse and abuse,” he said.