The regional medical ganja industry is shaping up to cater primarily to bigger players, said the Fair Trade in Cannabis Working Group (FTCWG).
The group, which published a position paper earlier this week, called on CARICOM countries to reform the industry and make it more accessible to smaller players.
The position paper discusses the legal reforms that occurred in a number of CARICOM member states, most of which the FTCWG said failed to address underlying social justice issues.
“We would like to see a further deepening of the process towards legalisation.”
According to the group, as the industry continues to grow, small farmers and other groups are being blocked from the opportunities and are facing the harsh repression that prevailed before.
“We need real meaningful change, not cosmetic and pretentious words, 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.
With the exception of St Vincent and the Grenadines, the group notes no CARICOM country has drafted business models that involve traditional cannabis farmers in the budding industry
“While, 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 legalisation,” said another FTCWG member, Patrick Cottle Junior.
The paper further shares steps on how to make the industry more inclusive as well make recommendations that a regional market be set up to make cannabis more beneficial to all rather than larger, foreign companies.
“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”, said Andre d’Caries, a St Lucia-based FTCWG member.
While the group is aware that the UN drug control conventions restrain individual countries from a full legal regulation of the cannabis market, it urges Caribbean governments to become actively involved and participate in the UN deliberations on drug control in general and on cannabis in particular.
FTCWG emanated from a workshop in St Vincent and the Grenadines in November 2019 and comprises of traditional cultivators, activists, academics and researchers.