Caribbean Awaits Debate on Decriminalization of Medicinal Marijuana

Caribbean_medicinal_marijuana_811499579The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is discussing the decriminalization of marijuana and exploring its use for medicinal purposes, which could help boost the sluggish economies of Caribbean countries. Here are excerpts:

Randy Delplesche, 27, is unemployed. But over the past few weeks he has “earned” EC$60,000 (One EC dollar = US$0.37 cents) from the illegal marijuana trade. He is among those Caribbean nationals anxiously awaiting the outcome of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Inter-Sessional summit that begins here on Monday where the issue of decriminalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes would have been discussed.

Delplesche does not hide the fact that he too favours regional governments agreeing to decriminalize the drug for medical purposes. “I think it is a good vibes,” he told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), adding “no work is going on in the country, so we have to look to do something else. That is the only thing we can do and make a little money.”

A report by a group of experts supports the argument by Delplesche that decriminalizing marijuana and exploring its use for medicinal purposes could help boost the sluggish economies of Caribbean countries. When they meet here over the next two days, the regional leaders will discuss the report that has already indicated that the Caribbean has a built-in competitive advantage with marijuana cultivation. “The region may wish therefore to explore any commercial benefit from a potential multi-billion industry including research and development and also the production of medical marijuana products,” the report stated.

CARICOM Chairman, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, the host prime minister foe the inter-sessional summit, last year urged his regional colleagues to discuss the issue of decriminalizing marijuana noting the steps taken in the United States in this regard. “Medical marijuana is important, but it doesn’t have the importance of say, climate change or the nature of the economy and the responses to the global economic crisis,” Gonsalves said.

He told CMC that apart from the fact that 20 states have decriminalized marijuana for medical purposes, Washington is putting measures in place to permit the medical marijuana industry to use US-based banks to conduct their trade. Gonsalves makes reference to MediCanja, the medical marijuana company established in Jamaica, where the government has announced that it will decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana by yearend.

Even if Jamaica does not meet that target, “they have proceeded apace and I have no doubt that all these developments are having an impact,” Gonsalves said, noting also that the media in that country seem to be supportive of the move towards medical marijuana. But Gonsalves may find that support for decriminalizing the illegal drug in his own backyard may not be an easy proposition.

“From my perspective, the question of medical marijuana at this time is a non-issue,” Opposition Leader, Arnhim Eustace told CMC, adding, ““we have a lot of difficulties in this Caribbean to deal with right now, including in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, of an economic and financial nature and that is where I think our emphasis should be.” [. . .]

The Grenada government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has also sought to distance itself from the topic.

In Barbados, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite has ruled out the possibility of the legalization of marijuana there.

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