February 3 2016
Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves on Wednesday said marijuana would be a suitable alternative cash crop to bananas for Caribbean countries, adding that five decades of commercial banana production has left many islands in the region in conditions of disaster.
“The upshot of the banana sector has been deforestation, erosion of the hills and valleys … it has been going on for nearly 50 years with bananas. So that when the rains come and you have flooding, the land gets washed away into the river. Trees themselves get dug out and they block up the rivers, mash up the bridges, destroy homes. And they kill people,” he said.
Research on marijuana as a viable commercial product
He told a major university forum in Barbados that it is time for the Caribbean to conduct serious research on marijuana as a viable commercial product, a statement that caused a positive reaction across the region, including in Saint Lucia, where residents have said his suggestion has merit.
“I feel, trust me, there will be more to export than the bananas, because you have more youth in the ghettos who will be happy to plant it, to sell it. The banana will not really sell fast like the marijuana,” said Saint Lucian chef, Valentine Clement James.
The economic benefits of marijuana
The Director of the Caribbean Drug and Alcohol Research Institute Marcus Day said it is time to give serious consideration to the economic benefits of marijuana.
“I think that we are being very shortsighted in our cannabis policy; our drug policy. I also think that looking at all the science that’s been revealed recently, there are not many downsides to using cannabis and there are much more benefits in terms of therapeutic use. So I think that it’s about time that we move into the 21st century and stop this prohibition that has caused much pain on a lot of people,” he stated.
Marijuana is illegal in most Caribbean countries
Currently, marijuana is illegal in most Caribbean countries, including Saint Lucia, but the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom) has established a regional Cannabis Commission to analyze the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
While opponents of decriminalizing marijuana say it will make it too widely available in society, citizens like Marius Modeste believe otherwise.
“The same way for rum. Rum is legal but some people choose to drink and some people choose not to drink. So the important thing you have to weigh is whether it is beneficial, whether it will help people when it comes to medicinal purposes and so on,” he said. “That is what is most important. So if at the end of the day the government sees that you can do something beneficial, the people can benefit and the government can benefit, I don’t see a problem with it.”
Proponents who support making marijuana the Region’s new cash crop have said that at the very least a collective needs to be created in order to have a Caribbean-wide approach to study the economic and other benefits of cannabis cultivation in the region.