by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Small Businesses et al. hosted a Cannabiz Panel Discussion on Wednesday night, November 16, where six individuals from various cross sections of society were brought together to give their respective contributions to the ongoing conversation about the new Cannabis Industry being considered by the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis.
The panelists included the Hon. Garth Wilkin, Attorney General in the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis; Dr. Garfield Alexander- Medical Doctor; Ras Iyah representative of the Nyabinghi Theocracy Order; Everton “Blenda” Delaney – Cannabis Advocate; a Hairstylist Lynvie “Binghi Natts” Burnham and Mr. Stuart Laplace- representative of the Bureau of Standards.
What should the Medicinal Cannabis Industry look like in the Federation?
Each panelist shared their respective outlook for the build-up of the local Cannabis Industry.
“Blenda” Delaney suggested that branding would be essential and could also lend to uplifting the local tourism product.
“My ideal idea of the Cannabis Industry going forward in St.Kitts would have to be branding, like having exclusive products from St.Kitts and draw people to come here [and] boost the Tourism Industry and also economics. When you’re competing against the bigger industries in [cannabis] strains and mass production, we are not going to catch up with them because they are way ahead of us. Right now, I feel like if we are going to do something in [the] industry, it [should] be something to bring people here, like probably hotels that allow smoking of Cannabis in a private area. Also, have licensed coffee shops around certain selected areas away from schools and other businesses that don’t tolerate Cannabis. Also, introduce exclusive products like drinks and exclusive strains of marijuana that’s only grown in St.Kitts; so if you really want to enjoy it, you have to come here and contribute to the economy.”
Dr. Garfield Alexander’s outlook speaks to social equity, balance and reparations for the Rastafarian community.
“So for me, it definitely has to be [balanced]. There definitely must have some social equity and some justice intertwined in it, cause again, I would full-heartedly be on board with Iyah in terms of reparations; there must be some reparatory justice in this. The Rastafarians have been in the vanguard of not only the legalisation of Cannabis but the way we eat, the way we approach spirituality. The way we approach being Africans and looking at that legacy. So, for years we’ve been lambasting them, locking them up; they are the first to get locked up, the first to get searched. So if we now create this industry as if none existed before, it will still be biassed and still along the same lines. As we could see from some of the mistakes made in Jamaica and even in the US, when you take a look at what they call a Cannabis Industry, they still have their disparities that were there before. The same disparities that the war on drugs created are still very much intertwined in the industry, as you can see it there. So for me, for St.Kitts, it’s definitely taking our time, making sure it’s balanced, making sure that there’s some reparations and social equity in it.”
Meanwhile, Ras Iyah lamented that “the herb” did not come from mankind, it came from the Almighty, and as such, when speaking about or using the herb, it must be dealt with from a spiritual standpoint. Ras Iyah made it clear that he does not want to have anything to do with strain but ganja instead. He called on the Members of Parliament to take their time and adequately draft the industry format for the local people’s benefit first.
Hairstylist Lynvie “Binghi Natts” Burnham presented a different perspective as someone who uses cannabis in cosmetic products. Cannabis contains essential properties that human hair needs, and also mentioned that the hair care industry in SKN can be boosted when the Medicinal Cannabis Industry is launched.
“There’s a lot of cases of Alopecia here in St. Kitts and Nevis and with that said, I’ve researched certain plants here in St. Kitts and Nevis that are needed to actually help with Alopecia. I’ve recently started writing a book about herbs in the Caribbean that actually alleviates hair loss. It’s not finished, but it’s on its way. I’ve tested out my oil which is a “loc-tonic” on myself because I’ve shaved off my locs right down to the core…and I’ve tried it on my hair and my daughter’s hair, my son’s hair and other client’s hair and it is awesome. I actually have a waiting list for it. So, with that said, I would like to actually get strains of plants, preferably the hemp plant, that contains more CBD (Cannabidiol), and that would actually help to boost the business, the hair care line here in St. Kitts, because once we touch base with that, once we go into the core with that and add it with other essential oils that are actually helping with the hair loss, then St. Kitts would be on the map in the hair care industry.”
SKN Bureau of Standards representative Mr. Laplace raised the point that St. Kitts and Nevis should not only look at Cannabis products as a mechanism to encourage tourists to visit St. Kitts but also to export those same products once they meet international standards and benchmarks. In addition, he suggested that discussions surrounding the build-out of the Cannabis Industry allow for a local variety of the herb based on the different perspectives and business ideas of the people. He said careful consideration must be given so that all parties involved will get a fair opportunity to benefit from the Cannabis Industry.
The Cannabis or Marijuana Act passed in 2020 highlights some of the legislative framework needed to allow for a Medical Cannabis Authority in St. Kitts and Nevis. The Hon. Garth Wilkin, in his opening presentation, explained the details that constitute the Medical Cannabis Industry.
“What that act does is it sets up a Medical Cannabis Authority, which is the body under which the rules that would govern [how] the Medical Cannabis Industry would be set. It establishes the Board, the Board of Directors. It talks about the Administration and how it is being financed etc. It goes on to discuss access to Medicinal Cannabis, so that includes instead the prescription mechanism for doctors; it also speaks about regulation of the use of Cannabis in places of worship. It talks about issuance of identification cards, that means if doctors are to prescribe persons to use Cannabis for any health-related matters, they’re supposed to have a special Id card that the authority can keep track of and other forms of regulating the industry, including granting licences to cultivators, granting licences to retailers, granting licences to pharmacies etc. All of the different players in the medical cannabis world are regulated by the authority.”
According to Attorney General Garth Wilkin, as of April 2021, the only aspect of the legislation that is currently in place is the Medicinal Cannabis Authority, thus making it clear that the licensing schemes and other elements have not yet been brought into force but are on the agenda of the government. AG Wilkin also hinted at the possibility of recreational cannabis use in the future.