By Admin. Updated 12:27 a.m., Monday, October 19, 2020, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).
Kingstown, St. Vincent (ONE NEWS SVG) – One of the Vice Presidents of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), Roland ‘Patel’ Matthews said that the NDP will lift ganja farmers higher.
At a speech at the NDP’s presentation of its 15 candidates at Owia, on Sunday (October 18), Mr. Matthews said ganja farmers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have been suffering and that the NDP, if it forms government, “will lift ganja man higher”.
Mr. Matthews said too many individuals are still being arrested for possession of ganja. He added that “We don’t want no big investors controlling”.
Mr. Matthews said the NDP supported legislation in Parliament to decriminalize ganja for medicinal purposes but poor ganja farmers are still suffering.
He said that the NDP, if they form the next government, will be legalizing at least two ounces of ganja for recreational purposes.
Mr. Matthews said persons will be able to plant between three (3) and five (5) ganja plants in their back yards under an NDP government.
The two-time member of Parliament for North Leeward, once a school teacher, said that he was a ganja farmer at the time when he was called to teach.
He said he has the interest of the marijuana farmers at heart.
But, while Mr. Matthews has claimed that the NDP is the party to lift ganja farmers higher, the history of the party in dealing with Marijuana tells a different story.
Under the NDP administration, marijuana farms were often raided, with assistance from US troops and considerable numbers of plants destroyed.
According to a New York Times article published on March 4, 1999, more than one million marijuana plants were destroyed in December 1998, with the help of American troops. The raids on ganja farms by the NDP were not limited to that year.
But, in his speech, Mr. Matthews acknowledged that there were changing attitudes in the world concerning marijuana, since its medicinal value started being explored.
GANJA DECRIMINALIZATION LEGISLATION IN SVG
On December 11, 2018, St. Vincent and the Grenadines made history becoming the first Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) country to decriminalize Marijuana for medicinal and research purposes.
During the debate on the Medical Cannabis Industry Bill, Agriculture Minister, Saboto Caesar said the sufferings of persons who have had to cultivate marijuana in the shadows and illegally would come to an end with the new law.
During the same period, another Bill, the Medical Marijuana Amnesty Bill was also passed.
A Medical Cannabis Authority was set up to manage the local industry, ensuring regulation.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, during the debate in Parliament said that his administration had to be meticulous as to the decriminalization of ganja for medicinal purposes, so as to prevent sanctions by the US and other states over the move.
He said the state worked closely with guidelines established by the International Narcotics Control Board and other entities.
As the medical marijuana industry takes shape, more than thirty (30) licenses have been given out, to date. According to the Medical Cannabis Authority, eight (8) such licenses were given to local farmers’ producers cooperatives with an aggregated membership of over 100 traditional cultivators, while thirteen (13) traditional cultivators who applied individually were granted licenses by the Medical Cannabis Authority to cultivate marijuana for medicinal purposes.
As for recreational use, a proposed bill to provide legal rights for Rastafarians to use marijuana for religious purposes was rejected by members of the Rastafarian community, on the grounds that no law is needed to give Rastas the right to smoke marijuana.
In early September 2020, Trinidadian business mogul Johnny Soong received the go ahead to start St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ first cannabis pharmacy.