Alkiviades “Alki” David, the Coca-Cola bottling billionaire and hologram concert producer for deceased stars, has found a new profession: walking cause célèbre for marijuana.
David was arrested on May 13th after bringing 5,000 cannabis plants on his private plane to the Caribbean island of St. Kitts and Nevis. But the controversial magnate says he remains undeterred in his quest to find a foothold in the business as legalization spreads across the islands. “Certain soil structures, like volcanic islands in the Caribbean, are the very best that nature can offer for a natural habitat [for growing cannabis],” David says. “In Switzerland, where my company is based, we grow indoors with heat and light and water, none of which is required in the Caribbean.”
On Tuesday, he flew to Puerto Rico with $3 million worth of hemp seeds, a licensed grower and Denzil Douglas, the popular former prime minister of St. Kitts, to launch a farming cooperative he claims could make farmers rich (while not coincidentally helping him meet the increasing demand of his CBD company, Swissx, which sells flower and oil products in convenience stores on the U.S. mainland).
As for the recent arrest, a representative for David says reports of officials finding plants on his private plane were inaccurate: David declared the hemp plants, which he believed were legal, to customs upon his arrival. (The St. Kitts’ customs department could not be reached for comment.) As David’s side sees it, the arrest was a bid by Prime Minister Timothy Harris to prove to anti-marijuana constituents he’s still tough on cannabis, even though days earlier, the nation’s legislature had introduced a bill to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize recreational use. Right now, all cannabis is illegal in St. Kitts under the Drug Act of 1986.
David plans to get started right away, signing deals with farmers and giving away seeds. They’ll start planting the non-THC hemp on 800 to 1,200 acres of land near the town of Utuado, which he claims will bring its farmers as much as $1 billion in yearly revenue with four annual harvests. David tells Rolling Stone he’ll provide the seeds, fertilizers and instruction on how to farm the hemp at no cost, then he’ll buy the entire harvest from farmers — regardless of quality — at half the market rate. “The work is up to the farmers; they can earn as much as they want,” David claims. “A farmer with 10 acres will be able to feed several families and become a local millionaire.”
The business model, David explains, is based on successful Swiss cooperatives like the supermarket chain Migros. Farmers own their land and can plant David’s hemp on as many acres as they choose. “It’s a new-age spreading of the wealth in a truly capitalistic way,” he says. Puerto Rico, of course, has been ravaged not just by Hurricane Maria, but by debt due in part to major mainland pharmaceutical capitalists exploiting tax loopholes for profit until the laws changed and they shut down their plants.
Still, it seems a disaster like Maria can be full of possibilities, for some. “That’s the fantastic opportunity for myself as a businessman,” David says, when asked about the potential to help the island’s agriculture recover from the storm. “There are hungry farmers with a broken economy wanting a way out and this is a great opportunity. Desperation is the mother of invention. This has evolved naturally.”