CARICOM Leaders to Debate Marijuana Legalization

St. Vincent – 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 began last Monday in St. Vincent 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… 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.”

Cannabis Leaf
Cannabis Leaf

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. 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 for 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 year end. 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 rug in his own backyard may not be an easy proposition. St. Vincent’s Opposition Leader, Arnhim Eustace said “I think we need to grapple with those things that are critically important to our economies and our societies right at this time.” The Grenada government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has also sought to distance itself from the topic.