The Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines is moving ahead to operationalise the machinery for the medicinal cannabis industry, the bills for the establishment of the industry having recently been passed with support from the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP)

“I want to say to the public that I’ve had several discussions already with Saboto Caesar (minister of agriculture) and Jerrol Thompson (medical doctor and special projects advisor in the Prime Minister’s office) and other public servants in setting the machinery in place for us to start the actual operation. We passed the law but we have to appoint a chief executive officer, staff of the authority. We have to setup the board. There are officials of the state on then board and then there are four other officials, five officials – one of them would be chairman, one would be deputy – from outside the service,” Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves told reporters on Monday.

The Prime Minister noted that most of the members of the board will be drawn from the senior ranks of the public service.

Prime Minister Gonsalves said the bill which was recently passed into law has many positive features for local marijuana cultivators.

Dr Gonsalves also said that the minister with responsibility for lands the chief surveyor as part of a team have been working to provide land space for traditional cultivators. He said there may be cultivators who have previously cleared lands for farming and may wish to clear more but that is not advisable.

Minister with responsibility for lands Montgomery Daniel in his contribution to the debate on the marijuana bills in parliament recently said that as a government establishing an industry that requires land use, there are “lands on several government estates across St Vincent and the Grenadines that can be used for the production of marijuana like any other crops.”

“But in this case, the chief surveyor has identified in the case of Orange Hill, there are some 2,445 acres available – though Orange Hill Estate is just over 3,000 acres. So you have private lands there as well that is available but I’m speaking here now of lands on the government estates.

In Langley Park there is a total of some 295 acres that is available, in Colonarie there is some 80 acres that is available in San Souci 60 acres, in Grand Sable there is 40 acres, in Richmond there are 500 acres,” minister Daniel told parliament.

He also stated: “You have some lands in Belle Isle as well, but for security reasons, the land in Belle Isle is not identified as part of the lands that can be made available.

And so, according to the chief surveyor, we do have some 3,420 acres of land that can be made available to the production of marijuana under the bill that is before us. You also have private lands that may to up to just over 2,000 acres that can become available.”

The government minister said what is critical in terms of the government estate lands, is that all those lands were leased to a number of farmers across St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“So that, despite the fact that we do have almost 3,500 acres of lands on the government holdings, that these lands are vested in small farmers, though some of their leases are null and void and they may not have been cultivating the lands to the max, or to the optimum. But, what is important here is that the authority (chief surveyor) I believe would have to establish rules, going forward, as to how these lands will be utilized,” he said, noting that the average acreage on all of these farms, is approximately 3 to 5 acres.

Daniel said “the chief surveyor has identified that all of the lands are under lease agreement.”  He said “some may be up to date in terms of their payments, some may not. And, because they are not up to date in their payments,  their leases can become null and void.”

“So that, ensuring that lands are there, it means therefore that, yes the lands have been identified but, the government, I believe, will have to assist the authority in ensuring  that lands become available whether or not they renew the leases or whether or not they identify the persons who are on these lands to be involved in the establishment of marijuana production on these lands.

Therefore, Mr Speaker, all of these lands would have been occupied by small farmers. And so, small farmers are there who can immediately get involved into marijuana production, for the cultivation of medicinal marijuana,” minister Daniel stated.

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