Business

Marijuana farmers, company haggle over price

Friday, March 08, 2019

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KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) – The President of the Cannabis Revival Committee (CRC), Junior “Spirit” Cottle, is urging marijuana farmers not to accept anything less than EC$300 (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) for a pound of their product after a locally-based medicinal cannabis company said it was offering US$50 a pound.

“We are not saying we are not going higher. But we are not going below that. And, under the medical industry, we're looking for more than that. We will be negotiating but, as it stands now, under the amnesty, it mustn't go below that,” Cottle told the Caribbean Media Corporation ( CMC).

In a statement last week, the CRC called on traditional cultivators of cannabis “to be on the lookout for some foreign investors who want to offer them lower than the unofficial EC$300 minimum which they have been receiving for one pound of cannabis”.

The CRC sai it had received information that some investors have been “attempting to put traditional cultivators against one another by recruiting some Vincentian nationals to act as agents in getting them to arrive at this agreement”.

Cottle said that in some cases, as low as US$50 is being offered to growers.

The local medicinal cannabis company, Vincy Leaf, is offering US$50 per pound for the marijuana it buys and according to Ronald “Ronnie” Marks, a director of the company, the price was informed by how much his company can sell its product in Canada, its intended market.

“It's oils. It's not buds, it's not recreational marijuana,” Marks told CMC, adding that his company has to factor in the cost of processing and securing the cannabis extracts.

He said he fully supports Cottle quest to get the best prices for farmers, but said that the activist must be realistic.

Cottle said that a modern cannabis industry demands high standards and compliance from all licensees. “This in itself requires a greater level of investment expenditure on the part of our growers, which means less profits in their pockets,” he said, adding “traditional growers cannot accept such a situation

“After suffering extreme hardship from the eradication of our crops and imprisonment by the state, after being robbed by unscrupulous middle men who credit our crops never to return, and by armed pirates, sometimes losing our loved ones in the process, we call on all farmers to resist such attempts,” Cottle said, urging the traditional farmers to rally around the CRC to negotiate “the best possible deal”.

Cottle told CMC that traditional growers of marijuana do not normally accept less than EC$300 for a pound of marijuana, noting “there are cases you may hear a man might tell you give him EC$400 a pound”.

He said the basic price of EC$300 a pound has been standard for 20 to 30 years and that “certain investors” have been offering US$50 per pound for marijuana during the amnesty period.

A marijuana amnesty law passed last year will waive criminal penalties for framers who can sell illegally grown marijuana to the medical marijuana industry within a specified one-year period.

Cottle said that during the amnesty period, farmers will not have to abide by the stiff standards that are required by the medical marijuana.

“It is not the same thing, it's true, but $300 a pound is what is there now. That doesn't require the rigid standards and compliances that are required under a medical cannabis industry.

“After the amnesty period, the requirements will be more rigid, so naturally, the investment into that industry will be greater, so we will be looking for more returns. But that is left also to be negotiated. And that will be based on the kinds of taxes and the kind of profit investors making. And I think we will have access to that because, guided by the regulations, we will be able to get all that information,” Cottle said.

But Marks said that there seems to be “a fundamental misunderstanding as to the illegal market and the medicinal market” for marijuana.

“I am in full support of Spirit to get the best price for the farmers. There must be the best price for the famers. But realistically, you are not going to get the same price for medical marijuana as you get for recreational marijuana.”

“I have been involved for 20 years of defending persons who planted marijuana, but it was illegal at that point,” said Marks, an attorney.

“Here's a scenario: say if I can plant and you are telling me I can produce 1,000 pounds per acre and I am selling you at US$50 per pound. That's me making US$50,000 every three months. Which farmer going to reduce that?”

Marks said that Cottle proposal will price traditional growers out of the market.

“Spirit is on the right road, get the best price for the farmers but that price is not sustainable for medicinal marijuana. For recreational marijuana, it's chicken feed… Persons with large tranches of land, contiguous acres of land will be taking advantage of that,” he told CMC.

Last December, St Vincent and the Grenadines became the first Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) member to pass legislation allowing for the decriminalisation of marijuana for medicinal and scientific purposes.

Parliament approved two pieces of legislation that also allows for the production of the crop under a tightly controlled framework.

Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar, who piloted the measure, said that it would end many of the sufferings people had endured in the illegal marijuana trade.


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