Itopia Life collaborating with Govt, Rastafari to build Antiguan cannabis industry
Medical cannabis company Itopia Life is developing a model of how Government, private entities and Rastafari can collaborate to form a sustainable industry.
Itopia Life, which is headquartered in Jamaica where it runs a seed-to-sale operation, says to achieve this it proposed a pilot project to the Antiguan Government. The pilot project would establish a vertically integrated structure which would include greenhouse farms, an extraction lab, three dispensaries and a research and development centre in conjunction with the University of the West Indies, Antigua. A public education campaign would also be integrated in the company’s operations.
Itopia Life has already invested more than EC$10 million to establish its operations.
Itopia Life also said inclusivity of traditional growers is a key pillar in its business model.
“Our objective is to create a sustainable framework for the Antiguan industry and we believe a tripartite agreement between us, the Government and the Rastafarian community shows inclusivity and exemplifies ethical business practices,” said Itopia Life CEO Blaine Dowdle.
The proposed agreement sees the Antiguan Government and Rastafari Food For Life, a collective representing Nyabinghi Rastafari, each with a 24 per cent stake. Itopia Life controls the remaining 52 per cent.
Itopia Life has been having ongoing discussions with the Antiguan Government and has met with Cabinet five times to propose a collaborative approach aimed at strengthening the local market by creating a vertically integrated industry.
Itopia Life also proposed that the Government not rush to issue new licenses until the pilot project has achieved its objectives of streamlining the local operations.
In an interview on ABS TV, the Antiguan Information Minister Melford Nicholas said a focus on the local market is the right approach as the export market will require more time to before its fully developed.
Ambassador King Frank I Francis, a member of Rastafari Food For Life, noted that “this unique proposal by Itopia Life is meant to avoid some of the pitfalls that have taken place in other jurisdictions and include Rastafari in the commercial prospects of the cannabis industry”.
“They have cooperated extensively with the Rastafari and exposed I&I to expertise garnered from their Jamaican experience,” he added.
Itopia Life operates an 80-acre property in St Ann, Jamaica and has a Tier 1 cultivation licence. On July 10 it opened its first dispensary in Kingston with more slated by 2020. Similarly to its Antigua proposal, Itopia Life has shown a vested interest in preserving indigenous cultural practices and including traditional growers in its business model. Earlier this year it signed an MoU with the Rastafari Indigenous Village in Montego Bay and its brand marketing activities are steeped in authentic cultural experiences.