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Lobby group urges CARICOM support for regional ganja marketplace, less foreign ownership

The Fair Trade in Cannabis Working Group (FTCWG) has said that it wants CARICOM countries to setup  a regional marketplace for marijuana and assist more small farmers in participating in the industry.

The group in a position paper released earlier this week called on CARICOM countries to make reforms to the medical ganja industry, noting that it needed to be more accessible to smaller players.

With the exception of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the group notes that none of the CARICOM member states have drafted a business model that involves including traditional cannabis farmers in the industry.

The position paper discusses the legal reforms that occurred in a number of CARICOM member states, most of which the FTCWG states failed to address the underlying social justice issues.

The group said that as the industry grows larger foreign investors have benefited at the expense of  small farmers and other marginal groups who are blocked from opportunities, and are facing the harsh repression that prevailed before.

“We need real meaningful change, not cosmetic and pretentious talk, while pushing out the real traditional growers. I wish Jamaica would go beyond paying lip service to this stated objective”, said Vicki Hanson, member of the FTCWG.

The paper goes on to share steps on how to make the industry more inclusive, as well as, recommends that a regional market be setup to make the industry more beneficial to the people of the region.

“In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, there is a certain level of protection for traditional cultivators within the legal framework of medical cannabis and the amnesty, we would like to see a further deepening of the process towards legalization,” said  FTCWG member, Patrick Cottle Junior.

“The cooperative that we growers have set up here in St. Lucia, helps us protect our local interest, while
using local expertise and knowledge about the cannabis plant as a medicine,” added Andre d’Caries, a
St. Lucia based FTCWG member.

FTCWG also wants CARICOM member states  to usher in reforms that will also assist the Rastafarian community.

“Provisions for use as sacrament in Antigua and Barbuda are now included into law, but still there is an urgent need for an inclusive regional cannabis market and have our community benefit from the emerging industry,” said Tashawn Browne, another member of the working group.

The group said that while it was mindful that the UN drug control conventions restrain individual countries from a full legal regulation of the cannabis market, it urges Caribbean governments to become more actively involved and participate in the UN deliberations on drug control in general and on cannabis in particular.

FTCWG emanated from a workshop in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in November 2019 and comprises of traditional cultivators, activists, academics and researchers.

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