The cannabis industry in the Caribbean mirrors the danger of the U.S. cash-only industry and the lure for criminals given the large amounts of cannabis and cash. In the town of Vermont (not to be confused with the U.S. state) on the island country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) in the Caribbean, five would-be armed robbers were thwarted on Friday, Jan. 27 by a deputy guard at a dispensary. Due to quick thinking and a fast response, the perpetrators were caught mid-robbery while they were still at the site.
Green Lava Labs is a medical cannabis company and dispensary in the Queensbury area of Vermont. As one of the first Class-C license holders in the country, a great deal of cannabis and a steady cash flow made it a prime target.
St. Vincent Timesreports that five men, one brandishing a gun and another brandishing a “cutlass,” allegedly entered the dispensary at 2:00 am at night forcefully and injured at least one person. The five assailants allegedly attempted to break into the dispensary’s storage area. But a deputy from an armed security agency was quickly dispatched, returning fire and forcing the robbers to flee before they could make off with the loot.
“Our armed security operative engaged the bandits directly, firing several shots, causing the bandits to flee, without being able to break into the building and storage rooms,” Sheriff PSS Inc stated.
A deputy was dispatched to the premises promptly within 15 minutes, while the suspects were still on-site, officials said.
“Operations Control was contacted and our Executive Director Mr. Jason Greene and Operations Commander Mr. Cox responded immediately to provide additional support. The police [were] contacted and responded promptly within 15 minutes,” the release reads.
A caretaker who was on the premises was injured during the incident.
“The live-in caretaker on the estate was injured during the incident and taken to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital by Sheriff PSS Inc for medical attention,” the report continued.
“Sheriff takes this opportunity to remind the nation that we are serious about asset protection as SVG’s only tactical security agency. We stand ready to serve citizens and the business community as the #1 source for reliable, competent and efficient Asset Protection Agents and Security solutions.”
Green Lava has the capacity of over 8,000 pounds of cannabis per year and future plans to reach the full capacity of its allowed 25 acres that should allow the company to produce over 35,000 pounds of cannabis per year.
The company’s grand opening was significant enough to attract Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves; Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar; a Senior Official of the Medical Cannabis Authority; and officials to attend.
The company also has other locations including one in Jamaica.
Business is once again booming in SVG’s medical cannabis industry, Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves reported earlier this year. This follows a slow, discouraging period due to COVID pandemic restrictions and devastation caused by the La Soufriere volcano eruption.
Lawmakers in the U.S. Virgin Islands last week passed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, bringing the number of states and territories in the country that have legalized the use of cannabis by adults to 21. The legislation was passed in the U.S. Virgin Islands Senate on December 30 by a veto-proof majority vote of 11-1. Governor Albert Bryan, who has expressed strong support for cannabis policy reform, is expected to sign the legislation, according to media reports.
The legislation was approved in conjunction with another bill that expunges past convictions for marijuana-related offenses, which was passed by senators on Friday with a unanimous vote.
Senator Janelle K. Sarauw, the sponsor of the recreational marijuana legalization bill, said that the legislation was a collaborative effort by advocates who overcame opposition to comprehensive cannabis policy reform.
“Although there have been many politically driven false narratives about this cannabis legislation, I am proud of the work done by the Senators of the 34th Legislature, community stakeholders and advocates, all of who contributed to the structuring of the final bill voted upon in today’s Session,” Sarauw said in a press release posted to Facebook. “The body did its due diligence in protecting the masses and the best interest of our residents by ensuring that locals and minorities are not locked out of industry and have any opportunity to participate in its economic potential.”
Senators Worked Through Holiday To Finalize Bill
Senators reportedly worked over the Christmas holiday to work out some concerns with the proposed bill, eventually making some changes to the measure’s language in an amended version of the legislation.
“It became contentious, we almost went to war over cannabis,” Sarauw said jokingly in a statement quoted by The Virgin Islands Consortium, adding that “every single amendment, every single suggestion that members made is included in the amendment in the nature of a substitute.”
Possession of up to one ounce of cannabis was decriminalized in the U.S. Virgin Islands by legislation passed in 2014 and in 2019 a bill to allow the medical use of marijuana was passed by the territorial legislature. Under the bill passed last week, residents and visitors to the Caribbean island territory will be allowed to purchase adult-use cannabis and medical marijuana at licensed dispensaries.
“There are so many provisions in this bill across various disciplines, that once implemented and enforced with fidelity, the Territory will see an industry that is inclusive and diverse, but most importantly, safe,” Sarauw said in the press release. “It is my hope that the current administration implements both Medicinal and Adult Use to their full potential, for the benefit of the people of this Territory.”
Regulations Still To Come in Virgin Islands
Although the bill was passed by a veto-proof majority and has the support of the territory’s governor, Sarauw noted that the legislature has yet to pass regulations to govern marijuana cultivation and sales, steps that are necessary before a regulated cannabis industry can begin operating in a legalized economy.
“Cannabis will be on the governor’s desk in no time and we have done absolutely nothing to move cannabis forward,” she said. “We bawl, I get attacked in debates about cannabis and it will be on the governor’s desk – rules and regs haven’t been promulgated, no seal-to-seal tracking system, nothing has moved with this industry.”
The bill was passed early Friday morning during the last legislative session that Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory served as Senate President of the 34th Legislature. She indicated her support for the measure, noting that the governor and 11 of the territory’s 15 senators had traveled to Denver to learn about issues related to cannabis legalization.
“It would be irresponsible of myself to not move this legislation up or down, whichever decision we make this evening, in the 34th Legislature because we spent the government money,” Frett-Gregory said.
Though cannabis has been common in Jamaica for a long time, Kaya Herb House was the first regulated medical cannabis dispensary to open in not only Jamaica, but the Caribbean—stocked with its own flower and concentrates.
It’s thanks to Jamaica’s transformation on cannabis reform that can be seen by the swift changes in law over the past several years.
In February 24, 2015, the Parliament of Jamaica voted to drastically amend the nation’s cannabis laws—making possession of up to two ounces a petty offense, establishing a licensing authority and a medical cannabis system. Cultivation of five or fewer plants is permitted, and practitioners of Rastafari can use cannabis for religious purposes—the first country to officially recognize the use of cannabis for that reason.
The new amendments to law enable the company to thrive. Kaya Herb House’s sister companies Kaya Farms, Kaya Spa, Kaya Café, and Kaya Tours are a testament to how much the company has expanded—both vertically and geographically.
Kaya Farms announced its first legal harvest on February 20, 2018, grown at Drax Hall, St Ann, to be sold at Kaya Herb House. (Timeless Herbal Care also competed for that title, releasing a harvest during the same time period.) Kaya Herb House has been both a leader in high quality cannabis on the island as well as a prime source of education on the plant.
Balram “Bali” Vaswani is Kaya Herb House’s Chief Ganja Officer, born in Jamaica and witness early on to legendary strains dating back to the 1970s, such as Lamb’s Bread.
His team follows the strict rules of Jamaica’s Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA), and was actually subject to a random check-up during our call. But he says the systems in U.S. states prepared him well for the regulated industry in Jamaica.
“I was in, you know, I was in Colorado from around 2011 and I got a chance to see medical move to recreational and thought it was so interesting being able to be in a place and watch it happen,” Vaswani tells High Times.
After seeing how the framework in Colorado operates, Vaswani decided to participate in the formation of the licensing process in his own country as people lobbied in Jamaica to move towards the same agenda. “Both governments in 2015 were bipartisan, meaning they both kind of approved it and it had gone to Parliament, but the law has never really changed. And there was one milestone activity,” he says.
Vaswani says all the legislative change in Jamaica was spurred by an incident—a clear-cut example of injustice—involving one young man who died in prison, over one joint.
Mario Deane was arrested in February 2014 for possession of a single spliff (joint), and was tragically beaten to death inside his cell at the Barnett Street Police Station in Montego Bay. Anyone who has been to Montego Bay, including myself, knows how common weed is there, which makes it even more angering. Police claim he was brutally beaten to death by his cellmates, Marvin Orr and Adrian Morgan, but his family and friends suspect police foul play could be the real reason.
“I believe the date was Friday, February 2, and he died in jail on Sunday—for one joint,” Vaswani laments. “And that triggered [action] because it was already in Parliament on February 5, went to Parliament immediately with the riots and stuff saying, this is ridiculous that we’re this far and we’re still, you know, still being brutalized. And coincidentally law was changed and enacted and decriminalized on February 6, 2015. And the government said ‘we’re going to issue based on the rules and the regulations of anybody under the U.N. treaty that we’re going to decriminalize and allow for research and development until we formed laws of what the cannabis license authority would do’.”
Vaswani was one of the first to get in early in the program, beating the odds. In 2015, he launched Ganja Labs LLC, which grew legal cannabis at the University of Technology, Jamaica in Kingston, under the UTech medical cannabis research license granted by Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr. Andrew Wheatley.
“I was lucky enough to get one, the exclusive one with the University of Technology, [Jamaica] in 2015. So we got that in May, 2015 and we broke ground in November,” he says. “And then we had the first harvest or legal harvest in Jamaica in 2016, but only for research and development.”
The change in laws was a significant time because they could get genetics, the software, and they could train people how to clone plants. Vaswani said that there’s a learning curve in a regulated industry, and you realize how much you have to do on a daily basis.
On March 10th, 2018—representing the first legal sale in the Caribbean—Bali recalls as many as 5,000 people lining up in front of the dispensary to buy medical cannabis. He remembers celebrating because from that day, you could buy cannabis legally with a receipt, with a medical card—instead of out of a backpack from sellers on the beach, or elsewhere.
“And the only difference between the laws in the U.S. and Jamaica right now in terms of the medical side is that we don’t have edibles at all, but every other component in terms of rosin, resin, hash oils, et cetera, are all available, but just [the] ministry of health has not adopted the edibles.”
One location is in front of the cruise ship terminal about 30 or so minutes from Montego Bay. Then there’s another location two minutes away from Bob Marley’s house and across the road from T.G.I. Fridays in the heart of Kingston. In 2019, Kaya Herb House did its first export of oils, and then last year during COVID, they sent the first export of flower to Australia. “We’re not really a MSO, but we’re kind of an international company rather than a multi-state operator. And, you know, just to broaden our wings we said, ‘How can we continue to expand?’ So we launched our first franchise in December 2020 during COVID.”
Vaswani explained how they have a smoke room, and they are providing a lot of education because in Jamaica they didn’t really have the varieties of what you have in the U.S. “Our gum was finger gum that came off your finger, not really full hash, you know,” Vaswani says. “They didn’t have fresh clothes and they didn’t have kief so little by little we’ve, you know, we’ve educated a wider thing.”
The dispensary experience in his stores varied greatly from what you might see in the U.S., Vaswani says.
“In Colorado, we try to get people out between 45 seconds and a minute and a half per transaction,” he says. “Our typical transaction, our stores, for about an hour and a half they’ll come in … they’ll hit a dab, they might go for an espresso. So they might have pizza. So people might share, they might go back in and just get something else. And they’re kind of on the go. And then sometimes we see people three times a day.”
Kaya Herb House plans to build its next location in the Blue Mountain, which is four and a half thousand feet up, as their first entrance into “wellness.”
“Our mushrooms are functional and psychoactive, you know, that would be available in our new location. Imagine looking over the city at 4,000 feet, and we have 4,000 acres surrounded by UNESCOs heritage site, you know, so it’s a protected area. So we’re, we’re, we’re gonna be inside the protected area of the forest.”
Check out what Kaya Herb House offers, especially if you plan on traveling to Jamaica.
The Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago is making history with the advancement of two new marijuana related bills. Most notably, the country’s House of Representatives just approved a bill that would decriminalize the possession of cannabis.
Taking things a step further, the nation is also considering a second bill. This one could set up a framework for regulating the production and sale of marijuana.
All in all, this new legislation could bring big changes to the country. But it could also have much broader implications throughout the region.
Trinidad and Tobago Getting Close to Decriminalizing Weed
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives in Trinidad and Tobago approved the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill of 2019. After the House’s approval, the bill will now move on to the Senate.
The Senate will discuss and debate the bill before it goes up for a vote. All of that is reportedly going to take place this week and next week.
If the Senate agrees on a final version of the bill and approves it, the legislation would eventually be sent back to the House for one more vote. And from there, it would finally be handed on to President Paula-Mae Weekes to be officially signed into law.
The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill of 2019 introduces a number of big changes for cannabis law in the country. These include the following:
A person can possess up to 30 grams of weed and five grams of resin without facing any criminal charges.
Possession of between 30 and 60 grams of weed, and between five and 10 grams of resin, will face a fee of roughly $200 USD. Importantly, this will not carry any criminal charges.
Possession of 60 to 100 grams of weed, or 14 grams of resin, would carry a penalty as high as $11,092 USD.
Citizens will be allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants at home. A previous version of this legislation allowed for home-growing male plants only. But this was changed, since male plants don’t actually produce smokable flowers.
None of these will result in criminal offenses punishable by jail time. But, failure to pay fines could lead to additional fines and community service.
Obviously, if these amendments pass into law it will immediately affect Trinidad and Tobago. But it could also have ripple effects throughout the Caribbean.
According to Investopedia, Trinidad and Tobago is the wealthiest country in the Caribbean bloc, giving it a lot of weight and influence throughout the region.
One More Piece of Cannabis Legislation
While the nation is currently closest to passing its decriminalization bill, lawmakers are also considering another potentially big bill. This one is called The Cannabis Control Bill.
Importantly, this bill would establish a framework to regulate the production and sale of marijuana in the country.
The Cannabis Control Bill was recently moved to a Joint Selection Committee of the Parliament. Reportedly, this body will make recommendations to Parliament in early 2020.
If this bill eventually passes into law, it would move Trinidad and Tobago firmly to the forefront of progressive cannabis law in the Caribbean.
Barbados this week will become the latest country to actively pursue a medical marijuana program.
Dale Marshall, the country’s attorney general, said that a bill will be introduced to the Barbadian parliament on Tuesday. The legislation is expected to be debated later this month.
“We have committed to medicinal cannabis because, as a fella said: ‘You gotta go where the science takes you,’ but there is always going to be some push back,” Marshall said, as quoted by NationNews.
Marshall, who also serves as deputy leader of the country, made the remarks at a gathering of journalists at the Argentina Embassy in the Barbadian capital of Bridgetown. He said he expects the bill to go up for debate in parliament on August 30.
Recreational marijuana is illegal in Barbados, the tiny Caribbean island country that serves as a popular destination for both tourists and offshore banking. Nearly eighty percent of the country’s roughly 280,000 residents are Christian, a potential hurdle for advocates who want to expand marijuana production on the island.
Marshall, however, said he doesn’t anticipate push back from church leaders. “I don’t think that the churches are against medicinal cannabis. The single treaty on narcotics, which is the 1969 United Nations Convention, exempts what would normally be illegal drugs, so long as the purpose is either medical or scientific,” he said at the press conference.
“Our big issue is always going to be the feeling that if you can use marijuana for medicine then you could also use it for recreation and I think that is what the religious community is concerned about,” Marshall added.
The announcement of the bill has been in motion for months. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said late last year that she was ready for the island to join scores of other countries—as well as dozens of states and cities in the United States—who have reconsidered both the social cost of marijuana prohibition, and the potential boon from legalization. Zimbabwe, mired in economic turmoil, said last week it would repeal its ban on cannabis cultivation to open the door for hemp to become a new leading crop export.
But as Mottley sees it, Barbados shouldn’t prioritize cannabis as an export, but instead use it to expand the country’s tourism industry.
“Why would we seek to export when we can package and extract maximum value by having clinics as well as recuperative villages for people who want to deal with a certain aspect of pain management?” Mottley said in December.
The government of St. Kitts and Nevis has introduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana, tying the move to the dual-island nation’s history of slavery. In his Emancipation Day message, Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris said last week that his administration had introduced legislation to amend the Drugs (Prevention & Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) Act, which bans the cultivation, possession, and use of marijuana.
Harris added that the proposed amendments “could not have come at a better time than close to Emancipation Day, an emotionally significant day that signifies our freedoms and rights.”
Emancipation Day, which commemorates the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean, is celebrated in St. Kitts and Nevis on the first Monday and Tuesday of August. Harris said that there is no better time than the holiday “to acknowledge our painful history, take stock of where we are and make amends for past mistakes,” adding that “we owe it to ourselves, to the memory of our forebears and to our future generations.”
Harris said that “too many of our youth have been criminalized and incarcerated in relation to cannabis, and as a result, they have lost out on job and travel opportunities, opportunities to study abroad, a good future and a good name.”
To address the collateral damage of past convictions for minor marijuana offenses, Harris said the legislation would include provisions “to expunge the records of those criminalized.”
“We offer a fresh start to our people in a new era of enlightenment and engagement with cannabis,” he said. “We are committed to decriminalizing marijuana and in the near future expunging criminal records for related offenses of a certain degree while ensuring that the health and welfare of our nation’s children are protected.”
Legalization Committee Formed
After the statement from Harris, the government announced that a Cannabis Core Committee of experts had been established to provide guidance on legalization and the creation of a domestic cannabis industry.
Harris said that the committee will be chaired by Dr. Wycliffe Baird, who “has been involved with the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines with their cannabis legislation and industry and he has done work in Africa in relation to this, so he comes to the committee already prepared and knowledgeable with regard to this particular activity.”
Members of the committee will also include young people and representatives from the Christian Council, the Rastafarian community, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, and the Office of the Attorney General.
“The establishment of a modern industry requires a lot of work and preparation and especially one which has to date been part and parcel of deeply held ideas regarding its use, its legitimacy, and even its legality a lot of work still remains to be done,” Harris told members of Parliament late last month.
Harris announced in February that his government would work to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize cannabis for adult use.
Judge: Woodstock music festival can license its name to pot
A judge says the owners of the Woodstock music festival name can license it to create a marijuana brand marking the 50th anniversary of the famed gathering.
U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe rejected a claim that the deal would infringe on the name of another company, Woodstock Roots.
Gardephe concluded the nature of the planned Woodstock-branded recreational marijuana and a competitor’s cannabis-related smoking paraphernalia are different.
Woodstock Ventures, which produced the 1969 Woodstock festival in New York, and Woodstock Roots sued each other in 2018. Woodstock Roots does business as Woodstock American Products.
Woodstock Ventures argued recreational marijuana falls within its “natural zone of expansion” under federal trademark law. It is working on a deal with a major marijuana dispensary.
Woodstock Roots lawyers did not return emails seeking comment.
St. Kitts and Nevis Introduce Adult-Use Marijuana Legalization Bill
Leaders in the dual-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis introduced new legislation on Tuesday aimed at legalizing marijuana for “medicinal and scientific, religious and recreational purposes,” according to the Office of the Prime Minister.
“This is a major legislative achievement of the Team Unity administration, which has done in less than five years what could not be done in 20 years,” reads a statement released July 29, 2019, by the Caribbean nation’s government.
The move comes almost six months after a government-appointed National Marijuana Commission recommended that the country’s Drugs Act of 1986 be amended to take into consideration the latest research on the benefits of cannabis. Among its proposals, the commission supported legalizing the use of marijuana and its derivatives for medicinal and scientific purposes, decriminalizing possession of 15 grams of cannabis or less and the expungement of criminal records for people convicted for similar amounts.
In response, lawmakers introduced the Cannabis Bill 2019 in May to create the necessary framework to allow for the cultivation and use of marijuana in St. Kitts and Nevis.
At the time, Prime Minister Timothy Harris lauded his administration’s ability to “cut across the three broad gamut that had been the subject of discussion regionally and elsewhere with respect to the issues to do with marijuana,” referring to its medicinal, for religious and recreational uses. He also called the bill “a reformist and enlightened piece of legislation that appropriately responds to the popular will of our population.”
Ohio Governor Signs Hemp Legalization Bill
Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has signed a bill that allows for the cultivation of industrial hemp and legalizes the manufacture and sale of CBD products derived from the plant.
Ohio’s leading farm group applauded the signing of the bill July 30, 2019, by DeWine.
The Ohio Farm Bureau says industrial hemp will give farmers another crop option and a potential revenue stream that could offset “years of declining commodity prices.”
Ohio’s Department of Agriculture must create rules for a hemp program before farmers can begin planting.
Featured Image: Woodstock Ventures, which produced the 1969 New York festival that was a cultural touchstone of the 1960s, was cleared to license the Woodstock name for a line of marijuana by a federal district judge. (Photo by Haley Lawrence on Unsplash)
Today’s headlines are brought to you by our friends over at Eaze.com, California’s top one stop website for legal marijuana delivery. If you live in the golden state, swing over to Eaze.com to see if they are active in your area. With deliveries taking place in less than an hour, it’s never been easier to get legal California marijuana delivery. And of course, if you don’t live where Eaze delivers, you can still benefit from all the useful bits of industry insight and analysis they’ve developed using their properly aggregate and anonymized sales data stream.
Check out our other projects:
• Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement.
• Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.