The Saint Vincent and the Grenadines government says they are considering the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes, but have ruled out the possibility of opening up the industry for recreational uses.
During the presentation of the national budget on Monday, Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves said the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP), won't allow the recreational use of cannabis like other Caribbean countries that have already decriminalized small amounts of the marijuana for personal use.
“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,” said the finance minister.
He added that the Vincentian society still has a “divergence of views” about the recreational use of cannabis, but the government was willing because of the growth of medical marijuana industry internationally to international cease the opportunity and leverage available local expertise.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is known to be one of the biggest producers of cannabis in the Caribbean. Its production developed during the 1970s, as banana prices were going down and the marijuana harvest proved more profitable. Illegal crops flourished in the islands' highly inaccessible territory and represented a significant employment opportunity.
Even though its cultivation remains illegal, experts say cannabis production earns the Caribbean country about US$40 million a year, much more than banana exports.
If they allow it, the government believes the island's production capacity could make it the center of the Caribbean's medical cannabis industry, given the already established illegal cannabis production capacity.
The finance minister's remarks come after Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said last month that he met with Agriculture Minister and a legal advisor to discuss the possibility, suggesting they could open up the industry for medical marijuana for export purposes.
“I watch the Jamaican experience. Jamaica set up for the medical marijuana, and at the same time, they decriminalize in respect of two ounces for personal use... I want us to put this matter of a medical marijuana as an industry center and upfront. And I want to see foreign investment in it, and I want to see domestic investment in it,” said the prime minister.
Last week, Antigua and Barbuda decriminalized 15 grams of cannabis for personal use with the “Misuse of Drugs” amendment bill.