Basseterre, St. Kitts – With the passage of the amendments to the Cannabis Act in the National Assembly on Monday, November 20, the responsibility for the buildout of a thriving medicinal cannabis industry now lies with the Minister of Agriculture, the Honourable Samal Duggins.
Before the amendments were approved during Monday’s sitting, the responsibility for the Medicinal Cannabis Authority was held by the Prime Minister.
In his contribution to the debate on the Cannabis (Amendment) Bill, 2023, Minister Duggins welcomed the transfer of responsibility.
“Cannabis is a crop Madame Deputy Speaker, and for too long it has been treated not like it ought to have been. As a crop, its development should be aligned with the overall development of the agricultural sector, and so moving the mechanisms into the realm of agriculture speaks to the alignment that should be taken when it comes to the development of cannabis,” the minister said.
Minister Duggins said this move also presents new opportunities for farmers who can now bring their years of expertise in crop production to the fore for the development of the medicinal cannabis industry.
“Our farmers would now be able to legally cultivate and utilize their skills within the field of medicinal cannabis, and when we look at that Madame Speaker, … we then see possibilities for the development of our agricultural sector. The last time we had a crop that generated hundreds of millions of dollars would have probably been sugar in St. Kitts and Nevis. Since then, our agricultural sector plummeted from leading the gross domestic product (GDP) contribution to now just over one percent. Madame Speaker, we are saying now here is a chance to revive agriculture, diversify our economy and ensure that the agricultural sector can move again to contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to our economy,” said Minister Duggins.
The Cannabis Act was also amended to increase the number of persons appointed to serve on the Medicinal Cannabis Authority Board.
Minister Duggins said, “In the development of a significant aspect such as this, we must be guided by the right advice. We cannot do this wrong and hope to correct it later, and so as we move along and develop this entire scope and how we approach this, I believe by including more voices we can have better advice.”
During a recent visit to Southern University (SU) in Louisiana, United States of America, Minister Duggins had the opportunity to tour the university’s food production and research facilities and the medicinal cannabis growing, research, and quality control operations.
“When I looked at what they are doing at Southern University in the development of medicinal cannabis, we can do that here quite easily. In fact, I think we are better positioned to do that here given our natural resources and all that we have available to us,” the honourable minister said.
Mover of the Bill, Prime Minister the Honourable Dr. Terrance Drew opined that the amendments made to the Cannabis Act during Monday’s Sitting of the National Assembly will help to ensure the proper rollout of the Federation’s medicinal cannabis industry.