‘Many deserted me, some say I’d die before I see it’ – Hemp advocates press gov’t for regulatory framework  


By Kurt Campbell


In August 2022, longtime hemp advocate Michael Kirton was happy when the National Assembly passed the Industrial Hemp Bill.

More than a year later, the government is yet to put the full regulatory framework in place but Kirton, full of hope and enthusiasm, remains steadfast in new calls on Thursday for the government to keep its promise of an orderly but early development of the local hemp industry.

Kirton had hoped to see legal hemp cultivation in Guyana two years ago; he continues to encourage farmers to get the lands ready but is satisfied that through collective advocacy, a law is finally in place.

The law prescribes for the establishment of an Industrial Hemp Regulatory Authority, which will be run by a Board; that Board is yet to be established but Kirton said according to assurances from Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha, it will be put in place soon.

The Board, once in place, will investigate applications for licences; issue, suspend and revoke licences; prescribe quotas for cultivation and collaborate with the Customs Anti Narcotic Unit to monitor hemp production, among other tasks.

During a forum on Thursday, Kirton who now sits as an executive of the newly launched (December 2023) Guyanese company – Hempair International – recalled the selection of Regions Six and 10 by the government for hemp cultivation to commence.

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 wave of enthusiasm is sweeping through Region Six and 10 with eager farmers and potential hemp farmers, youth, young adults and women eagerly waiting for the final green light to commence hemp production.

“It is time to get the fields ready in Regions Six and 10. The Ministry of Agriculture is looking to commence hemp production very soon,” Kirton told those gathered.

The advocacy towards legal cultivation of hemp is largely a personal one for Kirton who recalled the challenges he faced over the last 10 years.

“Many of my friends deserted me… some tell me I will die before I live to see it.

“Some said it will never happen, but this is reality,” Kirton said to the gathering at the National Library, Georgetown which largely included other hemp advocates who toiled alongside him.

He even recalled being arrested in the early days of hemp advocacy when persons mistakenly thought he was encouraging the cultivation of marijuana. He said an officer who summoned him to the station many years ago is now one of his “hard-working supporters.”

“Sometimes people say I have faith like God, but I have my own faith… and I live to see it sign into law,” Kirton said as he sought to encourage those who felt dispirited that hemp cultivation has not started.

Among those present and delivering short messages were Sheliesza Persaud from Hemp Youth Guyana and Owen Desouza from Feds Co-op Society.

Persaud acknowledged that work towards ensuring orderly hemp production continues but also recalled the tireless work done over the last 10 years.

She thanked Kirton for his leadership, guidance and determination.

Desouza, on the other hand, urged the government to offer more support in sensitizing the Guyanese public.

The government had long assured of its support for hemp cultivation, considered a mainstream economic activity that can give local planters greater economic returns.

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