WITH plans afoot toward the establishment of a cannabis industry on the island –the authorities are intent on developing an inclusive and modernized sector to cater to the needs and requirements of the average citizen and other interested groups.
Minister of Commerce Emma Hippolyte charged with the responsibility to oversee the establishment of the cannabis industry, this week, presented an update on the “cannabis regime” to be implemented in Saint Lucia.
The minister said the path to developing the long-awaited regime and rolling out an industry has not been an easy task.
She stated that it has been an arduous task to undertake what many may perceive as a “simple undertaking”, and the government necessitated that “we be cautious and meticulous” in planning every step.
“Our caution should not be viewed as in-action …and behind the scenes, we have been working feverishly at eating away the issues and complexities that this ‘elephant’ of a task has presented,” Hippolyte told legislators, at a parliamentary sitting, Tuesday.
“Our appetite and our intent have not waivered, nonetheless as we continue to achieve milestones along the process and approach the finish line we remain wary of critical missteps, which we note that other jurisdictions have fallen prey to,” the minister added.
She acknowledged the input of members who have served on the Cannabis Commission, the Cannabis Task Force, and the current Steering Committee “who have with each passing of the baton played a role in their way towards the progress of the regime and its development.”
Hippolyte said the Regulated Substance Authority Bill will be tabled in the house in the coming weeks.
“This bill will upon its enactment create a statutory body charged with the regulation and oversight of several regulated substances, which will include cannabis and cannabis products,” she explained.
“The enactment of that legislation will spell (be) another pivotal achievement in the process of cannabis reform as it will allow for that entity to receive the baton from the hard-working members of the Steering Committee who have facilitated the review of the Regulated Substance Authority Bill and the Cannabis Bill, which we also intend to introduce shortly after the mobilization of the Regulated Substance Authority,” added Hippolyte.
The minister noted that to ensure momentum is not lost, the government will seek to establish this authority. “As an inclusive government, we have sought to ensure that stakeholders have been allowed to review the Cannabis Bill,” she said.
Minister Hippolyte reported that over the last few months, the authorities have held discussions with several stakeholders from various sectors, including; agriculture, tourism and entertainment, health, banking and finance, and the judicial sector among other interests.
The minister added: “It was necessary to obtain the multi-sectoral perspective to refine the initial draft bill,” noted Hippolyte. “Thereafter, further engagement with stakeholders is planned along the process and we wish to ensure the general public that there will be ample opportunity to dissect the various legislative portions of this regime ahead of it rolling out and will be better equipped to answer other questions and quell all fears.”
The minister urges the public “to look out for the Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and discussions” on the various talk shows and forums.
Cognizant of the relevance of a robust legislative framework to support the proposed legislation, she said, “We have pro-actively commenced the preparation of regulations for the regime. With the assistance of the Canadian/ CARICOM Expert Deployment Mechanism out of Canada, we have obtained the services of a consultant to assist in the development of the framework for the regulations”.
The minister adds that the government “eagerly awaits the submission” which is due in the coming weeks.
Also, Hippolyte said, noting the need to achieve “unified thinking” about cannabis and appreciating that many other CARICOM nations have taken steps to revise their positions relating to cannabis, she is pleased to inform that “this government is planning to host a Regional Cannabis Symposium to ensure that matters of concern coming to our attention during stakeholder engagements are adequately ventilated at a regional level.”
Hippolyte said the government is clear with its intentions “to revise the Draconian-criminal restrictions surrounding cannabis and has developed robust, modern, inclusive, wholesome and bespoke industry surrounding the herb.”
In the lead-up to an advisory report that is expected to be tabled before Cabinet later this month, Chairman of the Cannabis Task Force and Senior Legal Officer attached to the Ministry of Commerce, Manufacturing, Business Development, Cooperatives and Consumer Affairs Dylan Norbert-Inglis, has led a steering committee in several crucial meetings with various stakeholder partners.
Among the list of public and private entities that have met with the steering committee to voice possible concerns and share timely recommendations are representatives from health, agriculture, tourism and events, judicial, banking, and finance sectors. These interests met with the committee in light of the proposed legislative amendments on cannabis.
The Ministry of Commerce has also been working closely with Oriana Trombetti, a veteran legal consultant engaged through the CARICOM Canadian Export Deployment Mechanism (CCEDM) and Catalyste+ Canada, to develop the framework for regulations for the proposed industry. As part of the CCEDM consultancy project, Ms. Trombetti visited the island between Aug. 5 to 12 and was part of some stakeholder meetings that required in-depth examinations of the proposed regulatory framework.
During that week, meetings were held with officials of the Saint Lucia Bureau of Standards, the National Agricultural Diagnostic Facility, the Forensic Lab, and the Ministry of Health. Ms. Trombetti’s report is expected to provide guidelines and requirements for a regulatory framework.