Local and international businesses in the southern Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines scooped up the islands’ first-ever licenses to cultivate commercial medical cannabis, the nation’s marijuana regulator announced.
Hundreds more are in the pipeline, demonstrating significant interest in the new industry there and across the Caribbean.
Ten companies with board members from Canada, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa were among those who won the first new licensees.
The remaining 24 went to local individual farmers or farming cooperatives with an aggregate membership of over 100 cultivators, according to a statement from the Medicinal Cannabis Authority (MCA).
The MCA expects to approve 200 more cultivation licenses by Sept. 1.
To lay the legal groundwork for the sector, parliament approved the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Act late last year.
The law – read it here – is very comprehensive and came with the regulations inserted, significantly reducing the time it took to get the industry off the ground.
The regulations provide a framework for medical cannabis businesses to:
- Manufacture products.
- Conduct research and development.
To facilitate those activities, the types of licenses granted by the MCA include cultivation (five levels), research, manufacture, dispense, import, export and transport.
The first licenses were only recently awarded partly because the MCA had to get a handle on how it would regulate the cultivation, supply, possession and use of medicinal marijuana in the country.
Acres Agricultural Canada won one of the licenses, and the company plans to cultivate 300 acres of land through its local subsidiary, Acres Agricultural (SVG).
“It’s seismic not just for Acres but for St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” CEO Patrick Power said in a statement.
The law also lays out rules for use – banning simple possession in places such as public transit and in private residences used as day cares. Consumption is similarly banned in those places, plus in public spaces, motorized vehicles and on boats.
Cultivation license fees range from 2.67 million Eastern Caribbean dollars (roughly $1 million) for a Class E permit to EC$100,000 for Class A.
Medical cannabis can be prescribed by doctors and dispensed only in authorized pharmacies.
Individual prescriptions can’t exceed a 30-day supply.
The regulations designate a long list of qualifying medical conditions, which include multiple sclerosis, sleep disorders and chronic pain.
Anyone interested in starting a medical cannabis business can find application forms online.
Parliament also passed the Cannabis Cultivation Amnesty Act and decriminalized the use of cannabis for religious reasons.
The country has said it has no intention of outright legalizing cannabis.