Hemp industry viable, but national input needed – President Ali

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President Dr Irfaan Ali

President Dr Irfaan Ali believes that the hemp industry could bring tremendous financial benefit to the economy but noted that national consultation is needed before the cultivation of industrial hemp can commence.

Only last week, it was disclosed that Cabinet has given its no objection to the Guyana Hemp Policy, thus paving the way for large-scale cultivation of industrial hemp here.

During an interview with reporters on the sidelines of an event at State House on Thursday, President Ali said that Cabinet had benefited from a report produced by the Defence Board. He said technical staff from the Guyana Defence Force, the Guyana Police Force and other stakeholders conducted a review of industrial hemp and after examining the global best practices, they submitted the report to Cabinet for consideration.

“That report was discussed at Cabinet. It’s an industry that I think is viable once the management is there. But of course, this is an important national issue that would require also some national input but I think it is something we have to look at,” the Head of State told reporters.

According to Dr Ali, industrial hemp has many economic possibilities. For example, he pointed to the lucrative hemp oil sector.

“So, hemp as an economic driver and value-added has tremendous financial benefits that are sustainable when you look at it. That is why I’m saying that from my opinion and based on the report from the Defence Board, there are possibilities there that I think would be helpful from an economic and a financial perspective that does not in any way, shape or form affect the wellbeing of the people,” the President noted.

During a meeting, last Monday, Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo informed the Guyana Hemp Industries Company that both Cabinet and the Defence Board reviewed legal recommendations made by Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who was tasked with looking into the viability of moving towards the legalisation of industrial hemp.

Cultivation of industrial hemp

The GHI in a subsequent statement last week said that its battle to legalise industrial hemp in Guyana has finally ended with Cabinet greenlighting the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp, which it said will provide thousands of new jobs and create new industries. For years, the organisation has been advocating for this and has even spent millions of dollars in awareness activities.

Vice President of GHI, Michael Kirton said they were “…confident that the new PPP/C Government would have removed the tide of negativity that had gripped our country over the past five years and place our economy on a firm footing using industrial hemp. Apart from bolstering the economy of the country and creating thousands of new jobs and new industries, Guyana has a very unique climate, good soils and hundreds of acres of land, plenty water to be a major industrial producer.”

However, before the cultivation of industrial hemp can commence, the regulatory framework will first have to be put in place. It is likely that an agency would be established to monitor the industry.

Advocates had previously highlighted that hemp cannot be planted with marijuana because the plants would cross-pollinate and this would destroy the entire crop.

Hemp is a multibillion-dollar industry that can lend to the production of hundreds of items. While hemp does contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), advocates have argued that this is in very low amounts, below 0.3 per cent, which is too low to be psychoactive.