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Growing on volcanic soil: cannabis in St. Vincent and the Grenadines

The cannabis industry is a very competitive sector, and it’s becoming even more so as a consequence of the increasing number of countries regulating these types of operations. Even though it has been flying a little under the radar, the Caribbean islands are paving the way to a place at the green table of the industry. One of the most promising Caribbean islands is St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which finalized the legislation recently. “St. Vincent has a history of cannabis growing, though in an illegal setting,” Andrew Hadley, General Manager of Medicinal, a Vincentian medical cannabis company, explains. “The country has taken the most stringent legislations from North America, Europe and Australia, and combined them to come up with our own framework.”

Medicinal is a Vincentian company: from the shareholders to the employees. “There is a Vincentian at all level of our leadership team, with the majority of our shareholders being Vincentians” Andrew remarks. “We are determined to have a positive effect on all the island. Via direct and indirect employment through our partnerships with other local farmers, we will hire 200-300 people.  We want to give opportunities to all those bright minds that usually leave our island for another country.”

The unique Vincentian cannabis
Medicinal grow their cannabis both in a greenhouse and outdoors. Their farm will soon be set across 58 acres of land in various parts of the island. “We start our cannabis plants in the greenhouse, and then they go out in the field,” Julian Truchot, Chief Development Officer of Medicinal, remarks. “As of now, we are experimenting with a lot of different genetics, some of which are more greenhouse oriented, while others are more oriented to the tropical climate.”

But what makes the cannabis grown by Medicinal truly unique is the soil. “We grow on rich and fertile volcanic soil,” Andrew points out. “There is a semi-active volcano here that gives us the advantage of having a 10-meter-deep soil, with a perfect low sandy mix, which is excellent for cannabis growing, especially for the development of the root systems. Also, while other volcanic islands have high concentration of heavy metals within their soil, the concentrations measured on our lands are minimal.” On top of the soil, there are other advantages that the Caribbean island offers to cannabis cultivation. “We have lots and lots of tropical rain and tropical sun, providing us with enough light to cultivate year-round.” Thanks to these characteristics, Medicinal can grow multiple crops a year. The Operation Manager mentions “Every day is a growing day, 365 days a year.  In Northern countries, only one crop per year can be done in the field,” Andrew says. “But here we have a 12 to 13-hour light cycle per day, and therefore it is easier to work with, which allows us to do up to 4 crops per year using foreign strains.”

Local vs foreign genetics
Even though the climate conditions are perfect for growing local strains of cannabis, the cultivation of foreign strains can be challenging on the island.  Medicinal wishes to grow both local and foreign strains to obtain a wide variety of products for their customers in terms of THC and CBD potency, terpenes concentration and aesthetics. “One of the disadvantages, indeed, is that some foreign varieties cannot easily withstand the climate, or all the pest pressure coming from that,” Andrew continues. “This is why it is of the utmost importance to know the strains you are growing and how to deal with their characteristics. Here in St. Vincent, we have different pests and diseases such as molds that do not grow in North America or Europe. Our local cannabis varieties are much more tolerant with that. On the other hand, since our local strains are not feminized, about 50% of the seeds are males and it is somewhat difficult to identify these plants. On top of that, the foreign strains are not optimized for our lighting, as they were developed for the North American and European markets. Bluntly put, our growers have to carefully select the strains that will be used in our field and optimize every aspect from seed-to-harvest. In order to do that, we will grow on various parts of the island to understand how the foreign plants react to the high and low altitude as well as the high heat of our Caribbean sun.”

Promoting the local industry
“Our focus at Medicinal is to create a sustainable model that mirrors the level of success achieved by the Banana Grower’s Association – the most significant industry in the agricultural sector of modern memory. In order to do this, we are partnering with farmers all around the country. We will be providing comprehensive training on Good Agricultural and Collection Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices to all our farmers in order to professionalize the regional cannabis industry. We wish to put our Country on the map as a professional cannabis producer and extractor, while creating a profitable internationally respected Company.  Our mission is also to grow the Vincentian cannabis industry, and to make sure that our image is of the highest quality cannabis made in the Caribbean: “our products will be characterized by the St. Vincent uniqueness,” Julian ends.

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