83.2 F
Cruz Bay
Monday, May 20, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsEducation About Hemp Could Profit Growers, Ancillary Businesses

Education About Hemp Could Profit Growers, Ancillary Businesses

Understanding and educating Virgin Islanders about the rapidly growing hemp industry will lead to entrepreneurship and profits for local business people, Barbara LaRonde believes.

“I want to make sure that local people don’t get shut out of the business,” LaRonde said Saturday at an event she organized. LaRonde is the one-time president of USVI NORML, the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. NORML was founded in 1970 in Washington, D.C., with the mission of decriminalizing marijuana. LaRonde’s mission is education.

Saturday’s daylong event at Hull Bay, dubbed “Inna Cannabis World,” was an attempt to jump-start the process.

It’s not just growing and manufacturing that can foster new income for Virgin Islanders, but all the other businesses that come with a hemp industry: garden supplies, transportation, graphic artists, label manufacturing, lights (for growing indoors), photography, and security cameras, to name a few, LaRonde said.

While economic development is clearly at the head of the list of benefits that could develop from the USVI’s medical marijuana legislation, LaRonde stressed the importance of keeping the community safe through proper testing and labeling of products.

“If it’s your medicine, you’ve got to take it seriously,” LaRonde said, and that means growers and manufacturers need to understand the various strains and seeds of the hemp plant and their specific applications.

Barbara LaRonde in California 2017 on a legal farm.

It also means scrupulous testing and product labeling. She spoke at Saturday’s Hull Bay event of a friend with colon cancer who benefits from a very specific strain of plant, emphasizing the importance of extensive education around the products.

LaRonde should know. She did her homework well. For two and a half years she split her time between California and Jamaica, learning about and training in all aspects of the business – from planting to dispensing.

“I was a chef, trimmer, and farm manager,” she said.

As an advocate, she made the decision to devote those years to hands-on experience so, “Nobody could tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about.”

While the cannabis industry has been in play across the U.S. mainland for more than 20 years, it’s new to the U.S. Virgin Islands, with the bills signed into law in January, as one of the first acts of newly elected Gov. Albert Bryan after years of legislative wrangling.

Former Sen. Positive Nelson – now Agriculture Commissioner – has been the legislative champion of the legalization and LaRonde has spent the last 10 years of her life also campaigning for the law that would establish the guidelines for the industry.

Though she sees recreational use as a natural next step to the recently passed laws in the Virgin Islands that legalized medicinal use of cannabis and the cultivation of industrial hemp while removing it from the list of controlled substances, that is not her mission.

LaRonde wants first to see people who can benefit medically have access to locally produced products, such as CBD oil.

The medical benefits are many and at this point widely accepted both through testing and anecdotal accounts of relief from everything from seizures to inflammation to sleep apnea and pain from multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia. In fact, the findings are so strong the pharmaceutical industry has created its own very expensive FDA approved version, called Epidiolex, specifically to treat seizures. Sold at around $2,700 for a month supply, its active ingredient is CBD extracted from marijuana plants.

An extensive article in the May issue of Consumer Reports said a survey they conducted suggests that more than a quarter of the people in the United States have used CBD; one out of seven say they use it every day. Last June changes in federal law allowed farmers to legally grow hemp. Starting with California 20 years ago, it is now legal to grow marijuana in 33 states.

LaRonde explained hemp has only a fraction of the Tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, of the marijuana plant. THC is the psychoactive ingredient that gets a user “high.” That’s why education is so important, LaRonde said. She rattled off a score of different strains of hemp that have different properties and uses.

The CR report said more than three-quarters of U.S. adults favor legalizing the medical use of marijuana and half support legalizing recreational use.

LaRonde doesn’t use the term recreational. Her terms for use are, “medicinal, industrial and sacramental.”

While LaRonde stands as the proponent locally, CR – a nonprofit consumer protection and advocacy organization – is crowd-sourcing to raise the money to test CBD products to see if they are what they claim to be.

“We want to learn whether they have as much CBD as claimed, whether they are contaminated with pesticides or other adulterants,” the group said. That will be expensive, they say.

LaRonde agreed. But the good news is, “we have a laboratory in the V.I. that can do the work.”

It can be found at the University of the Virgin Islands, which is partnered with the Agriculture Department in the promotion, research and development of markets for local hemp products, according to the legislation.

Meanwhile, there are boards to be formed and work to be done to get this new industry off the ground.

LaRonde expects it will take about a year from the enactment of the legislation for the “medicine cabinet” to open.

“You need at least one growing season,” she said.

Meanwhile the new legislation is expected to generate revenue way before that from licensing fees associated with creating the industry.

Brightfield Group, a market research firm specializing in cannabis, expects the CBD market from hemp alone to grow to $22 billion by 2022 – a huge increase from the $327 million it garnered in 2017, according to the CR report.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.


  1. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005, and I was 40. They put me on Rebif which I took until 2008 and was switched to Copaxone. I had two relapses on Rebif, none on Copaxone. I noticed my balance getting worse, and my memory, as well as muscle spasms. I’m 54 now, In Febuary this year my neurologist referred me to Organic Herbal Clinic, i immediately started on their natural organic MS Herbal treatment. I had a total decline in all symptoms including the balance, fatigue, muscle spasms, Pain, excessive urination and others. Visit Organic Herbal Clinic web page ww w. organicherbalclinic. c om. The MS treatment totally reversed my Multiple Sclerosis condition and most amazingly i can go about my daily activities!