Guyana readies itself to embrace the cannabis industry, as the nation’s parliament passes new legislation, the Industrial Hemp Act, permitting the cultivation of industrial hemp for commercial purposes.
Attempts to highlight the wide-ranging benefits of hemp production to parliament have been in the works since 2016, spearheaded by the Guyana Hemp Association (GHA). However, seeds were sown for this landmark legislation in March 2022, when President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali declared in a press conference that “there is a great opportunity that lies ahead in terms of the hemp industry and what it can do in terms of the technological push and construction material, pharmaceuticals”.
Following the apparent green light from the country’s president, the bill was introduced to the National Assembly of the Guyana Parliament in May 2022, finally passing on August 8th.
The Case for Commercial Cannabis in Guyana
Citing the economic uplift commercial cannabis cultivation can generate for the country, Minister for Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha, made an impassioned speech to parliament during the second reading of the bill, outlining that “hemp is a high-value commodity with endless potential for development. This increased interest in the cultivation of industrial hemp as a potential source of diversifying our economy and providing new jobs in the agricultural and industrial sectors, as well as, to develop alternative sources of fibre.”
Mustapha continued: “Our government is giving the agricultural and industrial sectors the opportunity to grow and exploit industrial hemp in a controlled manner. We are here today to align our laws to benefit from opportunities in the cultivation of this important product.”
In alignment with their Investing in Vision 25 (2025) initiative, Mustapha spoke about how Guyana could diversify its industrial sector, stating that “we can start many new industries with the cultivation of this one crop”.
Breaking the market down into 9 submarkets derived from hemp, Mustapha used paper as a case study, presenting how the “market size of the global paper and pulp industry in 2020 was USD 349.18 Billion. Furthermore, the hemp paper market is expecting market growth at a rate of 36.9% in the forecast period of 2022 to 2029.”
The additional submarkets Mustapha believes Guyana could tap into through their hemp production are: agriculture; textiles; recycling; automotive; furniture; food and beverages; construction materials; and personal care (including healthy food, organic body care, and other nutraceuticals).
It is hoped that the country’s new hemp industry will help divert criminal cannabis growing enterprises into legal industrial hemp farmers. Moreover, the environmental benefits of hemp production should not be overlooked, as lawmakers have been keen to highlight how hemp production can remediate soil of toxins, absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the atmosphere, and replace more polluting materials within manufacturing with hemp.
What Does the Industrial Hemp Bill in Guyana Say?
The Industrial Hemp Bill mandates that to qualify as ‘industrial hemp’, plant matter will need to contain 0.3% or less of THC.
The new legislation passed by Guyana’s National Assembly will see the formation of the Guyana Industrial Hemp Regulatory Authority and a governing board, responsible for overseeing issuance of renewable cultivation (valid for three years) and manufacturing licenses (valid for fifteen years).
The governing body will also be responsible for:
- Prescribing quotas for the cultivation of industrial hemp
- Monitor, supervise and control industrial hemp or related products (in collaboration with the Customs Anti-Narcotic Unit)
- Ensuring compliance
- Developing standards and codes of practice for licensees in collaboration with the Bureau of Standards
- Collaborating with national, regional, and international organisations
- Advising the Minister of Agriculture on matters relating to industrial hemp for medicinal, scientific, research, or any other purpose
- Establishing a hemp register
Anil Nandall, the Attorney General and Minister for Legal Affairs confirmed that production of industrial hemp will initially be concentrated within East Berbice-Corentyne (Region Six) and Upper Demerara-Berbice (Region 10), as “these are two regions that can be considered depressed and that can be considered regions that we need to stimulate employment and economic activities”.
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