Hemp decriminalised with passage of Bill but jail time remains for illegal cultivation

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In keeping with the government’s promise to see the orderly development of the local hemp industry, the National Assembly on Monday, in the absence of the APNU+AFC parliamentary opposition, passed the Industrial Hemp Bill, signalling the start of a new economy wager in Guyana.

Piloted by Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, the Bill in effect decriminalises hemp cultivation locally but imposes jailtime for illegal cultivation.

The bill addresses the legal procedures for cultivating and manufacturing industrial hemp and hemp-related products locally but more importantly, it proposes the establishment of an Industrial Hemp Regulatory Authority.

Such a body will be appointed by the Minister of Agriculture and will include nominees from the ministry who shall be the chairperson; the Ministries of Health and Home Affairs; the Guyana Forensic Lab; the Private Sector Commission and two other persons deemed to be fit.

The Industrial Hemp Regulatory Authority, which will be run by a Board, will investigate applications for licenses; issue, suspend and revoke licenses, prescribe quotas for cultivation and collaborate with the Customs Anti Narcotic Unit to monitor hemp production, among other tasks.

There are fines of $200,000 for Board Members who fail to disclose associated interests in matters being discussed and also for disclosing information that relates to the work of the authority.

No one will be allowed to cultivate and participate in hemp-related activities without a license and those who do so without being granted a license will be fined $500,000 and imprisoned for one year.

Co-Chair of Guyana Hemp Industries Michael Kirton and News Room’s Kurt Campbell during a visit to the Kuru Kururu location where hemp could possibly be planted.

The bill provides for three types of licences:

a cultivation licence that authorises all activities related to the cultivation of industrial hemp including the possession, planting, propagating, harvesting, transporting, distributing and selling of industrial hemp

a manufacturing licence which authorises all activities related to the manufacturing of industrial, distributing and exporting of hemp

and a licence to conduct research on industrial hemp.

Mustapha said that the new law will pave the way for local research to be conducted on industrial hemp.

Interestingly, a person is not allowed to plant any hemp seed or harvest any plant before a sample of the seed or plant is analysed to ascertain where it confirms to THC concentration allowed under the law.

This is to guard against the cultivation of marijuana which remains illegal in Guyana.

When licenses are suspended or revoked, the regulatory authority is tasked with notifying the Commissioner of Police and the holder will be expected to surrender all seeds or hemp related products in his/her possession.

The proposed law also makes provisions for enforcement and officers are empowered to search premises and seize property if persons are found to be acting in contravention of the law.

The bill provides pertinent definitions, including the definition of industrial hemp and hemp related products.

It prescribes that any plant of the genus cannabis and any part thereof, and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis will be classified as industrial hemp.

The government had long talked up its support for facilitating the planting and production of industrial hemp in Guyana.

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo had given a promise that the first hemp seed could be planted in Guyana by July.

In his own words, Jagdeo had said the government’s assurance is to ensure the orderly development of hemp without abuse.

Jagdeo had also noted that the East Berbice Corentyne (Region Six) and Upper Demerara/Upper Berbice (Region 10) will be the first two regions where cultivation and procession will be undertaken.

The proposed law allows for the Minister of Agriculture and by extension the government to designate areas for hemp cultivation.

The Guyana Hemp Industries – an overseas-based hemp company – has long lobbied the government to move ahead with hemp production and stands ready and willing to undertake the processing of this profitable crop.

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