Columns

Will we miss out on the ganja money?

MARK WIGNALL

Sunday, April 27, 2014    

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Two years ago, right after the US presidential election, a reader wrote me the following: 'I just read your recent article on the recently concluded US election and one thing stuck out at me beyond anything else. It is the fact that one of the items on the ballots that Americans were asked to decide on was the legalisation of marijuana. Many of the states, even those in the conservative mid-West of the country, voted not only to legalise marijuana for medicinal purposes, but also for personal use.

'I think Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean are missing the boat in relation to how we deal with marijuana. I think marijuana, like coffee, bananas, and sugar cane... could become the next big export crop, earning valuable foreign exchange and putting our young people to work.

'The last time I looked unemployment was too high, especially amongst young men. Why not put them to work farming marijuana plantations, with reduced THC content and exporting this to countries that have legalised marijuana for medicinal purposes?

'Most of the marijuana grown in the US for medicinal purposes is grown using technology which removes the majority of the THC content. Why can't we develop this and market it? There are not a lot of alternatives out there in terms of what we can and cannot export, but just as how we regulate our other agricultural exports, ie ackee, coffee, etc, the Government can put stringent rules in place for those persons who are interested in growing marijuana for export.

'There would have to be regulations in place for those persons who wish to develop this. In addition, the Government would have to speak to their foreign counterparts seeing as we have all these treaties etc, but the war on drugs has not helped the Caribbean. It seems a bit hypocritical to me that America is demanding the destruction of ganja farms all over the world, and yet at the same time their people are voting to legalise it.'

The rest, as they would typically say, is history. Two years have gone and America, the country that used to give us assistance in 'the war on drugs', has sold us a six for a nine because we could not see through that powerful country's double-dealing.

It assisted us in severely debilitating our growing of ganja in the 1980s under the Eddie Seaga-led JLP Government while the state of California began its experimentation and huge production upticks and the Appalachian states continued to do what they always did -- grow weed and produce moonshine.

Today, America is ahead of us because when it acts, even though the federal government has real power, the individual states' first responsibility is to secure employment for their constituents, and, any autonomy they possess will be used in that pursuit. Case in point, Colorado, which appears as if they began planning many years ago.

We have begun the talking aspect of the great ganja debate, but of course, the biggest talker is the Government, and the ganja actors will have to wait on the snail's pace of government before they can get their act together.

If the logistics hub is any example, it will be all talk, talk, talk.

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