By Sean Rose
Could November 20th, 2018, usher in the meteoric rise of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) to the status of a global cannabis giant?
In SVG and across its diaspora the 11/20/18 date is being viewed through many different lens, as the country moves to introduce legislation for the establishment of a modern medical cannabis industry. Some of those lens appear tinted with varying shades of analyses, while others are tainted with doubt.
As an optimistic analyst, and forecaster of the Vincentian cannabis industry, I am of the view that SVG, inclusive of all proposing and opposing voices, can and must channel all positive and negative energies to create a crystal clear vision for a home grown modern cannabis industry.
This unified effort is admittedly herculean, in-light of our politically charged climate. Nevertheless, a unified approach is guaranteed to catapult our economy, our people and nation to that enviable status of a global cannabis giant, irrespective of our small size.
When the history of SVG is written twenty years from today, would it be recorded that we chose to play marbles with rubies?
Choose you now! Would we be viewed as a model for small states seeking to legalize cannabis for any purpose.
Will our political parties, religious institutions and our wider society morph into a giant sized embodiment of nationhood to help SVG leapfrog unto the global cannabis stage with a bang, after 11/20/2018 when our small island nation is expected to introduce legislation for the establishment of a homegrown medical cannabis industry?
Can we evade the calamitous climate lurking on the horizon bringing with it partisan bickering and calls for a complete restart of the current movement in SVG? Or, will we stand tall as a giant in the world of cannabis? Choose you now!
My personal unequivocal support for a full scale legalization, packaged with pardoning and nullification of all criminal record for possession and cultivation of the miracle herb from its root to the flowers is not up for debate. I am in support of full legalization.
Irrespective of my view, the fact of the matter is this. Prior to 1937, people across civilizations enjoyed the positive benefits of using cannabis for well over 5000 years. That is the unadulterated fact. In 2018 our multi-island state is already punching above its weight as we progressively carve out a space in the global cannabis industry alongside Canada, who recently stole the spotlight after its bold step to legalise recreational marijuana on October 17, 2018.
Since then analysts, critics and enthusiasts have been glued to the first G7 nation to legalise cannabis, for recreational uses. Canada’s embrace of cannabis is expected to forge a synergistic relationship with its banking sector.
Some analysts say US banks, or financial regulators, are not likely to take action against Canadian banks, for financing cannabis companies. This suggestion remains under observation.
Closer to home, in the battle for global cannabis dominance, though small in stature on many fronts, SVG has the knockout punch of a giant. The reality for SVG, however, is by far much more complex than that of Uruguay or Canada.
Our country of 32 islands and cays is forced to battle with the imposing and ever shifting regulatory lines of demarcation on the global financial playing field, especially as it relates to best practices in the prevention of tax avoidance and money laundering. We can’t dismiss our existential reality.
For developing countries, there are constant limitations in accessing, and providing financial services within the confines of heavy handed regulatory measures. These processes are largely dictated by international and intergovernmental economic organizations such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), among others.
In addition, the Federal Government apparatus in the United States, with instruments such as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (US-FATCA) drafted in 2010. Effective since 2014, the initiative has had far reaching implications for international banking services in small Caribbean states like SVG.
The US-FATCA was introduced to monitor the financial activities of US citizens who reside outside its borders, with a view to prevent tax avoidance. The policy, nonetheless, has had a tsunami effect across the financial horizon.
It threatens to undermine commerce in small and vulnerable economies. The most impactful result to date is the strain on cross border financial activities reliant on international banking relationships. This applies to public and private sector transactions. It is akin to cutting off the blood supply to a person’s heart and later suggest they implant a bypass of some sort.
Meanwhile, the victorious march by the northern supper-powerful nation of Canada to successfully pass the “Liberal Government’s Cannabis Act”, on October 17, 2018, in that country’s parliament, was not necessarily a walk in the park either, albeit under more friendlier conditions.
The Canadians faced threats from other powerful forces too. Among them, the Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board’s (INCB), in a 21 June, 2018, UN Information Service) release, the NCB expressed deep concern about the legalization of cannabis for non-medical use in Canada”.
In September, 2018, Air Canada announced changes to its drug and alcohol policy, banning the recreational use of cannabis products for “safety-critical employees,” whether on or off duty. Among other critics. Canada’s neighbor across the border, the United States, has spouted only occasional lukewarm criticisms of the Canadian cannabis thrust.
The matter certainly didn’t stymie the talks that led to the recently revised United States-Canada-México Agreement (USMCA). The USMCA was primarily a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
You may recall that the formal tri-nation agreement was formally approved on October 1st, 2018, and is said to be awaiting final ratification and implementation. The take away here is this. Cannabis did not derail the USMCA talks, despite the prevailing anti-cannabis position of the US’ Federal Government.
Notwithstanding Canada’s unprovoked embrace of all things cannabis, SVG would be ill-advised to assume that our small-Island state would be allowed to flourish in a cannabis space without challenges. There is already resistance from within our won borders.
It would be remiss of us there will be similar obstacles beyond our geographic space. The current challenges associated with the loss of banking relations is crucial to the success of a legal medical cannabis industry in a place like St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and any other Caribbean nation.
Understandably, we may be easily dissuaded upon reflection of past experiences with other agricultural produce. Owing to a dominant defeatist disposition we still struggle to invent ways to add value to the raw materials we produce. We must find ways to add value to all that we produce. When larger and more developed countries, flanked by their resident interests in multinational cooperations undermined our banana and financial services sector we argued and blamed each other. History would repeat itself should we make the same mistakes with cannabis.
Once again we are called upon to decide and rule our own destiny. Will we capitulate to the perceived notions of inadequacy and surrender even before launching an attack? Choose you now!
I’m imploring all Vincentians to help radically transform our self destructive mindset, reposition our nation, boost our competitiveness, stand in unity, fight as one people, continue to punch above our weight, defeat the hegemonic forces who are or will try to implode our meteoric rise as a giant in today’s multi-billion global cannabis market.
Sean Rose Communications specialist – Email: Seanadrose@gmail.com