Dealing with Drugs Seriously in the Caribbean


Caribbean Intelligence reports on Caribbean countries’ interest in opening serious conversations on legalizing marijuana use rather than focusing on exoticizing views of the region’s “ganja tourism.”

“Jamaica’s ganja tours draw the tourists,” says a headline in Britain’s Guardian newspaper in September 2013. “Jamaica’s marijuana tours draw travellers,” states the Telegraph, adding that “farmers in Jamaica are seeking to cash in with tours of the island’s cannabis plantations”.

While some US states have moved towards changes in legislation on medical marijuana and Uruguay has actually changed its laws to move into the marijuana business, Caribbean approaches to the debate get full global media treatment.

When Britain’s Guardian reported on an unofficial ganja plantation tour, it referred to Jamaica’s “marijuana mystique”. In fact, the Caribbean and ganja were linked in the global public imagination decades before the medical marijuana brigade started to make their mark in North and South America. Maybe it’s down to the region’s most famous pot smoker, Bob Marley. Or perhaps it’s because many can boast of having sourced the weed in the Caribbean, where it is still illegal.

Let’s get serious

So it’s no surprise that the great and good of the Caribbean want a measured approach to the issue in less moral and more business-like terms. Uruguay has moved quietly towards legalising a regulated market in marijuana, which is expected to see final Senate sign-off in October. A number of states in the US moved a bit more noisily into legalising the availability of marijuana for medicinal use.

However, somehow when the debate begins afresh in the Caribbean – with its history as a trans-shipment location and the high-profile Rastafarian stance on ganja – the world looks on differently. [. . .]

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