Volcanic Eruption Devastates St. Vincent’s Cannabis Growers

CANNABIS CULTURE – The eruption of La Soufrière, a volcano on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, has devastated the local Rastafari community who have been unable to receive any financial relief from the government.
“Our rights have been ignored because of the simple fact that we are the vanguard of the people and we speak the people’s rights,” said Irasto Chance, ambassador to the St. Vincent Bobo Shanti mansion of Rastafari. 
“I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” says Jetli, a cannabis farmer who lost 160 pounds of product, “If I could get the help, I would be thankful.”

Chance says the Rastafari community advocates for policies unfavorable to the government like receiving reparations for slavery, growing cannabis for economic growth, and repatriation to Africa. Because the community does not vote or participate in government activities, they have not received support or supplies. “We don’t need any constitutional change [right now]. We need human rights,” says Chance.
Relief efforts provided by the government and humanitarian organizations have been difficult since volcanic activity is still ongoing and could continue for the next four months.
In an interview with journalists, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said, “We are not able to do the humanitarian effort, we are not able to do the recovery, we will not be able to without substantial assistance from the region and the global community. We are really at the midnight hour of need.”
According to reports, about 20,000 people were evacuated from the area nearest to the volcano located on the north side of St. Vincent. The prime minister said that the volcano spewed more than 100 million cubic meters of ash on the island and into the sea. In some areas, the ash is a meter deep.
According to St Vincent Prime Minister, ash from the volcano has spread as far as India.

Gonsalves estimates the volcano has already caused more than $100 million in damages. The United Nations has released $1 million from the Central Emergency Response fund and the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility had released $2.2 million. The UN did not respond to questions on how they may aid the Rastafari community. 
Chance says that the St. Vincent Rastafari community has been receiving food and clean water from Rastafari communities on neighboring islands of St. Lucia, Martinique, Barbados, and Jamaica, but it is a long road to recovery. Chance says when the volcano erupted in 1979, it took cannabis farmers six years to fully recover. 
Cannabis farmers operate in the mountains around the volcano. Bananas are the main export of St. Vincent, but many believe that cannabis is second on that list contributing to the island’s GDP. “These people are the real backbone of the economy,” says Chance who has been growing cannabis his entire life. 
Fannie Mountain collectively grows 10,000 pounds of cannabis per year.

Over the years, St. Vincent has become the capital of Eastern Caribbean cannabis growing and trafficking. Chance contributes the agricultural prosperity of the small island not only to the nutrient-rich volcanic soil, but also because St. Vincent has one of the oldest botanical gardens in the western hemisphere.
Most cannabis in St. Vincent is grown outdoors and because of the island’s latitude, there are three different growing seasons. Typically, in a temperate climate, farmers plant in the spring and harvest in the fall, but Chance has flowering plants right now that have been covered with volcanic ash making them unusable for medicine. “You see your hopes and your dreams and your aspirations crumbling before you. It’s not that easy of a site.”
This is the third time that La Soufrière has erupted in the last two centuries. In 1902, the eruption killed close to 1700 people, many of whom were indigenous black Caribs banished to live near the volcano by the British Colonial government. It erupted again in 1979 with no reported fatalities. 
“I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” says Jetli, a cannabis farmer who lost 160 pounds of product, “If I could get the help, I would be thankful.” 
It is estimated that 75% of the cannabis crop has been damaged by the eruption.

Jetli says he is not well stocked with food and water and is not sure how things are going to turn out. “This is something I done dedicate my life,” says Jetli who is not just in it for the money, “This is the only thing I do, and this is what I love.”
The plan for now is to get a piece of land, make a greenhouse and start over again further away from the volcano. With hurricane season beginning June 1, many are worried about further damage. Jetli says, “We still need a little more support in what we do and a little more help so we can move forward and build a stronger nation for everybody.”
Chance says he will help distribute relief provided by Rastafarian communities on other islands and will be going to different community centers around the island asking what people need. “There’s something in us,” says Chance, “We have that spirit of survival you know?”
To donate to the recovery of the Rastafari community please do so at St. Vincent Rastafari Community Volcano Relief.

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