Published 29 December 2023
Buckie Got It Media Source
Keynote Address at CANNA-BLISS
Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis
Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew
December 29th, 2023
Prime Minster of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew
Ladies and gentlemen, Good morning.
Thank you for joining us at the historic Caribbean Medico-Legal Cannabis Conference, CANNA-BLISS. Today, we stand on the precipice of a transformative era—one that heralds not only the evolution of our healthcare practices but also a revolution in economic sustainability for St. Kitts and Nevis.
As we convene to discuss the role of cannabis in our nation’s future, I want to take this opportunity to delve deeper into the intricacies of our journey—a journey that not only encompasses the medical field but also resonates with the very fabric of our society and economy.
The call to end the resurgent war on cannabis is rooted in a profound understanding—one that transcends outdated ideologies and embraces a more compassionate, equitable, and informed approach. The recent Sankofa Judgment has been a pivotal moment, urging us to reevaluate our Cannabis Policy, ensuring it aligns with the principles of justice, humanity, and regional responsibility.
The stigma placed on cannabis over the years, for far too long, disproportionately impacted specific demographics and communities, leading to the unjust incarceration of our most promising youth. It is a stain on our collective conscience—a reality that demands our attention and corrective action.
Our vision for St. Kitts and Nevis extends beyond the immediate benefits of medicinal cannabis. It is intertwined with the very essence of our nation’s transformation into a sustainable island state. Today, I emphasize the vital linkage of cannabis production to not just economic diversification but also to the crucial aspect of food security.
The emerging global market for medicinal cannabis and artisan hemp products presents unparalleled economic opportunities for St. Kitts and Nevis and, indeed, the entire Caribbean region. Our Medicinal Cannabis Authority, guided by the principles of empathy, efficiency, and equity, aims not just for profitability but for the holistic betterment of human health and the environment.
Let us explore the core values shaping the mission and vision of our Medicinal Cannabis Authority—values that underscore our commitment to compassion, diversity, empowerment, natural healthcare, alternative solutions, and research. In the pursuit of these values, we aim not just to establish an industry but to create a paradigm shift in our approach to healthcare, embracing the rich diversity in our citizens, our flora, and our collective well-being.
Our roadmap, transitioning from a “Start-up” phase to the “Scale-up” stage, emphasizes the importance of biopharmaceutical advancements of naturally derived and evidence-based cannabinoid products. This is not merely about entering the lucrative wellness industry but about driving advancements that contribute to the well-being of our local and international consumers.
Imagine a future where our citizens and tourists have access to a variety of naturally derived and evidence-based cannabinoid products and services—from cannabis-infused spa treatments at premier resorts to experiencing ganja cuisine on a Gideon Organic Farm Tour. We are not just talking about economic growth but about creating experiential access points that cater to diverse needs and preferences.
Our collaboration with Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA, represents a significant stride in our commitment to research, innovation, and knowledge-sharing. Southern University, a trailblazer in the field, holds the promise of advancing research, innovation, and the application of medicinal cannabis for the mutual benefit of both nations.
Just this week, we welcomed a high-level delegation from Southern University to further strengthen our collaboration and they are here with us today. I extend our gratitude to Mr. Myron K. Lawson, Chairman of the Southern University Board of Supervisors, Mr. Dennis J. Shields, President-Chancellor, and the entire delegation for their ongoing support and partnership. Solidified just two days ago at Government House, the memorandum of understanding signed with Southern University underscores our commitment to leveraging their expertise in areas such as crop development, medicinal plant research (specifically concerning medicinal cannabis), and livestock farming. This collaboration is not just about cannabis, however; it is about enhancing the overall well-being and prosperity of our agricultural sector.
Now, let us consider the broader context. Even those who may initially oppose cannabis use should reconsider the efficacy of criminalizing it. We have seen notable examples, such as Portugal, where drug decriminalization led to decreased drug usage and related issues. While we recognize that Portugal’s experience may not directly translate to St. Kitts and Nevis, its success is worth noting.
In the United States, studies have indicated that medical marijuana legalization is not linked to increased crime and may, in fact, be associated with lower assault and homicide rates. This is not an endorsement of unrestricted use but a plea for a nuanced, evidence-based approach that recognizes the relative safety of cannabis for responsible adult use.
It is time to challenge the stigma surrounding cannabis, viewing it not as a deadly drug but as a potential catalyst for positive change. Our focus should be on addressing more serious drug problems, not perpetuating an expensive and ineffective war on a substance with proven benefits.
Let this inaugural Caribbean Medico-Legal Cannabis Conference, CANNA-BLISS, be a testament to our commitment to progress, sustainability, and a future where cannabis is embraced responsibly, unlocking its potential for the well-being of our citizens and the prosperity of our nation.
Thank you for your attention, and may CANNA-BLISS mark the beginning of a transformative era for St. Kitts and Nevis.