Regional group continues to advocate for cannabis reform

Detailed picture of a marijuana plant
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A regional group is hoping to shed light on fairer practices regarding the use of cannabis.

The Fair Trade in Cannabis Working Group (FTCWG), which originated from a workshop in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in November 2019, has indicated an intent to call on the various Caricom governments to be bolder and fairer in their reforms on cannabis, by recalling several of the recommendations made by the Regional Commission on Marijuana in 2018.

The group, which consists of traditional cultivators, activists, academics and researchers, produced a position paper “For inclusive business models, well designed laws and fair(er) trade options for small-scale traditional cannabis farmers”, which aims to contribute to the debate on finding sustainable and realistic solutions to the challenges posed by the developing cannabis industry, with a special focus on traditional and small scale farmers.

It discusses the legal reforms that occurred in a number of Caricom member states, most of which fail to address underlying social justice issues, while the emerging medical cannabis industry should provide opportunities for those that bore the brunt of the harsh repression that prevailed before.

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

Another member, Patrick Cottle Junior, shared that while Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has a certain level of protection for traditional cultivators within the legal framework of medical cannabis and the amnesty they would like to see “a further deepening of the process towards legalisation”.

The position paper also makes suggestions on the path forward to integrate marijuana into a regional market that could economically benefit all, and not just the big cannabis companies coming from abroad.

“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,” says Andre d’Caries, a St Lucia-based FTCWG member.

Regarding the Rastafarian community, the group is adamant that reforms are long overdue, and the historical criminalisation of its members needs to be overcome once and for all.

They mentioned that although Antigua and Barbuda has made steps in that direction, there is still an “urgent need for an inclusive regional cannabis market”.

The working group is aware that the United Nations (UN) drug control conventions restrain individual countries from a full legal regulation of the cannabis market, but also that this status quo is currently under challenge.

The FTCWG urges Caribbean governments to become actively involved and participate in the UN deliberations on drug control in general and on cannabis in particular.

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