Antigua to bet on public-private partnership for cannabis growing

The cannabis industry in the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda is getting ready to roll, and with a twist—a public-private partnership that advocates hope can be a model for other nations in the Caribbean. 

This month, two years after a vote to amend its Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act and adopt the country’s Cannabis Bill, which created the framework for the licensing and regulation of medical cannabis, legal cannabis cultivation is set to get underway in the country. 

Last month, the Medicinal Cannabis Authority, which was created by the legislation, issued its first license to legally cultivate medical cannabis to GROW Antigua & Barbuda, a public-private partnership which comprises the government, the Rastafarian community, and private enterprise. GROW’s stakeholders are hoping to build the capacity to cultivate 26,1360 square feet (six acres) of cannabis across the country. 

GROW’s hybrid ownership model—which attempts to strike a balance between social equity and industry strategy—grants Itopia Life, one of Jamaica’s largest domestic cannabis companies, a 51% stake in the integrated seed-to-sale company. Rastafari Food For Life, a company owned and incorporated by members of the Rastafarian community, will hold 25%, and the National Assets Management Company (NAMCO)—a state-owned company—24%. The venture represents the first time a government in the region has directly entered the industry as an asset holder and investor. And it goes beyond equity programs underway in Jamaica and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, where governments have encouraged the legal participation of indigenous and traditional cannabis cultivators, via targeted subsistence farming programs or amnesties, but without making investments.


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