Customs authorities on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts arrested billionaire and Coca-Cola heir Alkiviades David when a search of his private plane turned up 5,000 cannabis plants (with an estimated value of $1.5 million USD).
David was released by St. Kitts Anti-Narcotics Unit after posting a $30,000 bail and is expected to make an appearance in court on May 14, where he'll face three serious charges: possession with intent to supply, possession of controlled drugs and importation of a controlled drug.
David is the heir to Leventis family fortune, which includes the majority share in one of Coca-Cola's biggest bottling operations.
Despite the charges, David claims the plants discovered on his plane were "pure hemp," which is a legal crop in St. Kitts. While hemp and cannabis come from the same family of plants, hemp is distinguished from marijuana by its low amount of the intoxicating compound THC. There's so little THC in hemp that smoking it won't get you high.
David claims that the plants were related to a new project that aims to jumpstart the cannabis industry in the Eastern Caribbean. David had previously announced the project back in April.
This isn't David's first attempt at breaking into the burgeoning global cannabis market either. He is also involved with the management of the Switzerland-based cannabis company SwissX which specializes in non-intoxicating cannabis products.
Cannabis reform has been moving at a steady pace in the Caribbean, where the US Virgin Islands and Trinidad and Tobago announced major marijuana reforms last January. The former announced plans to legalize medical marijuana, while the latter said cannabis would be decriminalized nationally later this year.
More recently, courts in St. Kitts and Nevis ruled that adults should be allowed to possess and consume cannabis in their homes, and they gave lawmakers 90 days to reform the dual island nation's cannabis laws. So if David was in fact caught with marijuana instead of hemp, it looks like he jumped the gun on cannabis reform.