(CMR) The Fair Trade in Cannabis Working Group (FTCWG) is calling on CARICOM member states to make the current ganja industry more equitable.
The group in a position paper published earlier this week shared that institutional barriers have limited the participation of marginal groups in the industry.
According to FTCWG, traditional and small scale farmers are being excluded from participation due to regulatory standards and high fees, the group argues that the budding industry needs a more inclusive business model as well as better designed laws with fair(er) trade options.
The position paper discusses the legal reforms that occurred in a number of CARICOM member states, most of which, the FTCWG said fail to address the underlying social justice issues.
The group says the current regulations are essentially marginalizing small players who bare 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,” said Vicki Hanson, member of the FTCWG.
“With the exception of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines none of the CARICOM member states have put forward a model that involves the participation of traditional cannabis farmers in the industry, ” added Patrick Cottle Junior a member of the group.
In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the group says there is a certain level of protection for traditional cultivators within the legal framework of medical cannabis, something the group would like to see more of as the region progresses towards legalization.
The position paper makes suggestions on the path forward, not just taking a next step in the reform
process, but also ways CARICOM countries can integrate marijuana into a regional market that could be more economically beneficial for 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.
FTCWG also wants CARICOM member states to once an for all usher in reforms that will assist the Rastafarian community.
“Provisions for use as sacrament in Antigua and Barbuda are now included into law, but still there is an urgent need for an inclusive regional cannabis market and have our community benefit from the emerging industry” according to Tashawn Browne, another member of the working group.
FTCWG said while it 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.
The group emerged in November 2019 from a workshop in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines comprising of traditional cultivators, activists, academics and researchers.