Traditionally, many island states have been trying to make ends meet ends meet in the sugar and banana industries and have been desperately trying to diversify their economies.
The already existent marihuana cultivation and trade has created an ‘artificial’ economy on the islands, which has put food on the table and sent kids to school.
The Caribbean is a region of poverty and inequality that forever has been struggling to find means of income. Traditionally, many island states have been trying making ends meet in the sugar and banana industries and have been desperately trying to diversify their economies. Practically all islands dabble in tourism; however, Aruba and Barbados are among the few islands that have reaped great benefits from this industry.
The Caribbean barely exports any goods, but imagine if this would change. What if we legalize and apply a more lenient policy for marihuana use on the islands? And then export it to the rest of the world? Those who advocate for legalized marihuana argue that the Caribbean stand to enjoy incredible tax revenues. A preliminary report from Caricom goes as far as stating that medical marihuana could boost the region’s economy. The reality is that despite restrictions, marihuana is widely used in the Caribbean. It is sold freely and openly puffed in the region, in particular on St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Jamaica.
Despite the widespread poverty in the region, the already existent marihuana cultivation and trade has created an ‘artificial’ economy on the islands, which has put food on the table and send kids to school. In turn, the Caribbean in general suffers from inflation and high purchasing power, despite the widespread poverty.
The island’s stance
Government officials in St. Vincent are all in for legalization. They have argued that the U.S. created drug policies don’t work in our region and are looking for ways to bring the product on the market for medicinal, religious and recreational use in order to capitalize on it.
Countries like Jamaica stand to make good revenue with medical marihuana. The Caribbean has an opportunity to make its mark in the world by developing cosmetics and pharmaceutical products for export. We could consider loosening restrictions and adapting a tolerant drug policy similar to the ‘Tolerance Policy’ in the Netherlands or by employing a system similar to Uruguay where production, sale and consumption of marihuana are legal and regulated by the government.
Still, the road towards legalization will not be an easy one. Many government officials in Jamaica are afraid of the social, legal and public health impact of legalized marihuana. Farmers in St. Lucia are terrified that the increased competition will lead to violence. No one is saying it out loud, but Jamaica is the marketing symbol for marihuana in the world and if they are not 100% advocating for legalization policies this means that the road to legalization will be a bumpier one.
(Originally published February 2015)