Mike Tyson is known as an eccentric guy. From youngest heavyweight boxing champion, to the guy who bit another guy’s ear off, to pro-wrestler, to author… Tyson has most recently styled himself as a businessman and an entrepreneur in the field of cannabis tourism. With the help of new regulation legalizing cannabis use in Antigua, Tyson is looking to set up his next Ranch in the Caribbean.
Mike Tyson has been at the top of the world as an undisputed heavyweight world champion. He’s also been jailed for drugs, got his face tattooed, was convicted of rape in ‘92, did the reality TV thing, has been in movies, pushed products, and over the years has become one of those weirdly likeable guys, who despite large missteps, has always managed to keep public interest, and endear himself to the world.
In his latest move, Tyson shows not only his entrepreneurial spirit, but an acute sense of business knowhow and timing, and an overall fondness for cannabis, along with a desire to share it with others in a positive way. When California changed its laws and legalized cannabis production, Tyson immediately took the bait, opening his first Tyson Ranch in El Segundo, California.
In fact, Tyson also started a podcast called ‘Hotboxin’ with Mike Tyson’ as a way to shoot the breeze with friends and other media personalities, but also as a way to promote his growing cannabis business-related endeavors. The podcast often features himself and guests relaxing at the Ranch, and smoking as they talk about different subjects.
Tyson’s Ranch is more than just a place to go to (which it will be upon completion), it’s also a licensing and branding company, and Tyson’s Ranch – the physical location in California – is a place to grow both recreational and medicinal cannabis, as well as hemp and CBD production.
The end goal, apart from the grow operation and investment in creating and producing cannabis products, is for the Ranch to be a whole entertainment complex complete with hotels, retail stores, amphitheater, camping grounds, and even Tyson University – a planned educational center for teaching people how to cultivate cannabis on their own.
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And now a little look at Antigua…
Antigua is an island in the West Indies, which is a part of the Caribbean region. It is the larger constituent of Antigua and Barbuda, an island set that together act as an independent state. Antigua was only officially disassociated from Britain in 1981 after having been colonized from circa 1632. Tourism is a mainstay of the Antiguan economy, with many upscale hotels and resorts making their way down the coastline.
Antigua and cannabis
Cannabis was illegal in Antigua up until 2018 when the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2018 was passed instituting personal use laws that allow individuals to have up to 15 grams of cannabis in their possession and up to four plants. This was followed up at near-lightning speed by the Cannabis Act 2018, which legalized the supply and production of cannabis for both religious and medical purposes.
It should be remembered that the Caribbean is home to the Rastafari movement which uses cannabis religiously, making for new religious exemptions in cannabis law in this region. Jamaica was the first to do this in 2015. As far as the medicinal aspect, the Antiguan government created the Antigua and Barbuda Medicinal Cannabis authority which governs the regulation and licensing for both medicinal cannabis and cannabis meant for religious purposes.
Though Antigua and Barbuda is not actually a big producer of cannabis, these first two laws were followed by a third, the Hemp Bill 2020, which legalized the cultivation, production, and supply of hemp and hemp-related products for medical, industrial, scientific, and supplemental purposes.
Investors interested in getting licensing can contact the board of the Medical Cannabis Authority. Application forms for licenses can be obtained at the Government Printery. If all this sounds like some pretty fast acting in a very specific direction, it is.
Mike Tyson’s Ranch in Antigua
The Cannabis Act 2018 opened the door for medical cannabis tourism in Antigua, and also opened the door for all kinds of outside investment with some attractive incentives. Foreign investors are not limited in how much they can own or control when investing, and are allowed to hold the entirely of their investment. Anyone looking to start an operation, whether foreign or from Antigua, can transfer property titles in about 40 days making for quick business movements.
In early 2020, it was reported that Tyson met with Antigua Cabinet members to discuss participating in a conference later in the year, as well as getting approval for another Tyson Ranch location in Antigua. The conference was initially scheduled for April of 2020 and was rescheduled for September in light of the Coronavirus situation. It will be a symposium with events, conferences, and live musical performances, and will feature leaders of industry in medicine, finance, and politics on the topic of cannabis.
The Ranch Tyson would build would be a wellness center on a property featuring a hotel that Tyson would buy or lease. Tyson’s request was said to have received initial approval and Tyson and his colleagues have been asked to submit their full proposal. It was, perhaps, the planning of the conference that got Tyson interested in building a retreat in Antigua in the first place.
How have the laws effected business?
While Tyson is in the planning phases of building his new cannabis-infused Antiguan paradise Ranch, other companies have also become interested in Antigua based on its new cannabis laws, and Tyson will certainly have some competition.
Eco Equity has apparently been approved to open operations in Antigua. Eco Equity is a British based company with large aspirations of becoming the premiere producer and distributer of medical cannabis products globally. As one of the first to start production in Africa’s burgeoning cannabis market, Eco Equity is already setting up operations in Zimbabwe under that country’s new commercial legalization for medical cannabis model.
In Antigua, Eco Equity hopes to be the first and top brand for medical cannabis (for which it’ll likely be competing with the likes of Mike Tyson fame, and other comparable companies). Just by getting the licensing, Eco Equity will have positioned itself in two of the central locations of the new global cannabis market – Africa and the Caribbean. And while the company comes complete with its own Social Responsibility Program (CSR) which is supposedly geared toward creating work for locals, whether Eco Equity really is the gentle giant it poses as, remains to be seen.
For now, anyone interested in the company’s plans can get a look at their proposed operations for Antigua and Barbuda, here. As the new pharma-cannabis industry grows, some of these new enterprises – like Eco Equity – start to resemble large-scale pharmaceutical companies more than the smaller independent operations that have been ruling so far. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it doesn’t have to be a good thing either.
Legalized Religiously – How Rastafari Tradition Is Helping Ease Cannabis Regulation in the Caribbean
Still not legal though
As a glaring reminder that cannabis is not 100% legal, and still very much a business with a large amount of government interest due to the sheer amount of profits possible, in February of this year, Antigua officials confiscated 30 pounds of cannabis at the airport which is believed to have been flown in illegally from Miami. While laws have certainly loosened considerably in Antigua, and in many other parts of the world, trafficking it – as in, providing it without government approval – is still very much illegal.
The Caribbean Islands have become a new cannabis hotspot, not necessarily just for growing cannabis and creating products, but also as a hub for medical marijuana tourism. With the US Virgin Islands already considering passing legislation to make the entire island legal for recreational cannabis, and Jamaicans using the religious provision of their personal rights laws to provide legal smoking sanctuaries, the Caribbean is shaping up to be the ultimate location for cannabis tourism – whether medical, recreational, or religious.
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