The Blossoming Medical Cannabis Industry in Antigua and Barbuda

The passionate team at Grow Antigua is on a mission to dispel myths surrounding this emerging industry in the country.

Since opening its doors at Redcliffe Quay seven months ago, they’ve attracted attention, notably for their strategic location across from a waffle hut and an ice cream shop.

Leo Moody-Stuart, the Public Relations Officer at Grow Antigua, appreciates the humor but emphasizes the importance of acknowledging the “serious side” of their work.

He explains that people visit the dispensary for various medical reasons, and the team is dedicated to spreading awareness.

Education is key

Retail manager Zack Hadeed is determined to change people’s perception of medicinal cannabis use. He is committed to educating customers, even if that means politely asking intoxicated tourists to return when sober.

Upon entering the sleek store, visitors aged 18 and over are greeted with Grow Antigua merchandise and a selection of smoking accessories.

However, the real magic happens behind a security-protected door, where a vast array of cannabis strains awaits customers who pass the crucial patient evaluation.

The dispensary offers an assortment of intriguingly named strains such as ‘Swiss Cheese,’ ‘London Pound Cake,’ and ‘Tigua Punch.’

To access these options, everyone must undergo a rigorous evaluation process, which involves answering a series of questions about personal health and intended cannabis use.

Zack’s expertise often allows him to authorize applicants on the spot. However, certain factors like a history of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or being between the ages of 18 and 21, may require further analysis from the store’s authorized doctor.

Out of over 700 sign-ups to date, around 5% have been referred to the doctor for further scrutiny. Once approved, patients are closely monitored, with the doctor conducting follow-up calls and tracking their purchases.

Patients in Antigua and Barbuda can purchase up to two ounces of cannabis flower or 15 grams of extract per day once approved – a generous allowance by most standards.

Leo acknowledges that patients have the freedom to use their purchases as they see fit but emphasizes that the products are intended for medical purposes and shouldn’t be abused.

Grow Antigua’s products are sourced from their Seatons farm, which began operations 18 months ago. The company is a unique collaboration between private entrepreneurs, the government, and local Rastafari communities.

The late Andrew Moody-Stuart, Leo’s father, played a pivotal role in establishing Grow Antigua, which received the country’s first cannabis production license in June 2021.

Andrew’s widow, Yadira, has since taken the reins as the managing director. The team also includes operations manager Robert Hill and on-site pharmacist Darnicia Spencer, the first in the country to hold a special dispenser permit.

Farm workers come from the Nyabinghi community of Big Creek, whose involvement is significant considering their history of discrimination due to their lifestyle and belief in using marijuana for wisdom.

Rastafarian knowledge back in play

Prime Minister Gaston Browne formally apologized to the local Rastafarians in 2018, the same year cannabis was decriminalized in Antigua and Barbuda.

Today, the Rastafarians play a vital role in Grow Antigua’s operations, bringing valuable knowledge and spiritual insights about the plant.

Customers can trust Grow Antigua’s quality products, which undergo rigorous testing and adhere to high sanitation standards. Unlike street cannabis, which may be old or contaminated with chemicals, Grow Antigua’s products are natural and heavily regulated.

High Ambitions

Cannabis enthusiasts will be pleased to know that the strains available at Grow Antigua are often more potent than those found on the illicit market. However, Zack advises customers to “start low and go slow” to find the ideal dosage for their individual needs.

The team at Grow Antigua has ambitious plans for the future. They’re working on obtaining an import license to bring in oils and materials for making edibles, and they’re even considering opening a cannabis lounge.

While Grow Antigua is currently the only dispensary in the twin island nation, more licenses are being processed, which could lead to further industry growth.

Zack sees this burgeoning industry as a “new beginning” and an exciting addition to the country’s tourist offerings. Leo is optimistic about the future and believes that the sector has enormous potential for Antigua and Barbuda.

Although there is still much to learn and navigate, the team at Grow Antigua is committed to advancing this promising industry while educating and supporting their customers.

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