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Club owner-turned-marijuana entrepreneur: Johnny Soong

The government of St Vincent and the Grenadines has given Trinidadian businessman Johnny Soong the green light to start the operations of the country’s first cannabis (ganja or marijuana) pharmacy.

Soong is the chairman and principal investor of Green Lava Labs, the first company to begin legal cannabis cultivation in St Vincent.

Soong has cannabis operations also in Suriname and Jamaica.

A release from the St Vincent Cannabis Authority stated that Green Lava Labs can now procure and dispense medicinal cannabis products legally in the country.

Speaking to the Express by phone, Soong, a well-known entertainment magnate, said the licence to dispense is the first of its kind in St Vincent.

He said Green Lava Labs has been in operation for a year.

“Our goal is really to make the Caribbean a destination point for good medical cannabis,” he said.

He said this is a young industry but it is one that will boom and diversify economies.

“Just imagine how much millions is spent on foreign exchange just on the black market industry in Trinidad. How much is being imported into this country from other places in the world...we certainly not growing that in Trinidad, what people are partaking in is not coming from Trinidad. So think about the millions of dollars in foreign exchange,” he said.

Soong estimated that T&T imports as much as $1 billion in marijuana a year.

He said his company is progressing but the Covid-19 does present challenges with respect to all businesses.

“We are working and progressing slowly but surely,” he said.

Soong said he is glad to be part of an industry that brings medicinal relief to those who are ailing.

With respect to cannabis laws in T&T, Soong said: “My concern is that when they do it, they do it right rather than hurry anything,”.

Green Lava officially launched operations in St Vincent on November 15, 2019.

According to the release from the St Vincent Cannabis Authority, the company currently has over 20 employees, involved in medicinal cannabis production at its five-acre farm on the island.

It stated that with the gazetting of the Patient Access to Medicinal Cannabis Regulations by the government on May 6, 2020, Green Lava will now further roll out its business model with the establishment of a pharmacy to provide medicinal cannabis products to people with qualifying medical conditions.

It stated Green Lava has signed agreements with two local traditional cultivators groups to procure raw cannabis product from their farms to make available in its dispensary.

The release stated there some 20 “qualifying medical conditions” for which patients can access medicinal cannabis in St Vincent and the Grenadines under the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Act 2018.

These include pain associated with cancer, severe and treatment-resistant nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, sickle cell anaemia, anxiety, sleep disorders and chronic pain.

There is also provision for any other illness or condition to be incorporated as a qualifying medical condition upon declaration by the minister, acting on the advice of the Medicinal Cannabis Advisory Council.

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