Newspaper headlines scream, “Police burned millions of dollars worth of marijuana plants”. Different versions of this headline are frequently repeated and we dismiss them as, “the drug rings are at it again”. But what if we saw cannabis as a viable economic diversification option?
Four possible outcomes surface.
Firstly, we would stop jailing “little black boys” for the recreational use of cannabis.
Secondly, the agricultural sector would get a much needed boost with a potential foreign exchange earner.
Thirdly Trinidad and Tobago would join countries like Canada, Portugal and Norway in the decriminalisation of drugs.
Fourthly, we would benefit from early mover advantage in the business of the commercialisation of cannabis.
Our system has to halt the deliberate destruction of countless black lives because the possession of a simple “joint”. The practice of charging persons for the recreational use of cannabis is alleged to encourage corruption amongst Police officers who willingly accept “ah change” to not charge or when they charge a “youth man” Police often don’t turn up in court. Decriminalising cannabis would free up Police time to hopefully deal with solving murders.
Some people object to decriminalising the use of cannabis because of claims that It is a gateway drug but the evidence just does not support that notion. People who abuse drugs to their detriment are unwell and should be dealt with by the health care system, not the penal system.
Globally, the tide has turned on cannabis. A November 27, 2017 story on CBC Canada titled, “Canada’s marijuana industry enters consolidation phase,” is instructive. The developed world is consolidating their cannabis business and we are burning the plants and beating our chests in the “war against drugs”.
I am told that the agricultural conditions in Trinidad and Tobago are great for us to enter this market as a grower. We were once tobacco farmers, so why can’t we become cannabis farmers? There’s a good chance that young people will be attracted to cultivating “de herb”. There is a spike in global demand for cannabis to satisfy both the recreational and medicinal needs. This is a train TnT needs to ride hard and fast but it requires the establishment of an operating framework, structures and processes so that the state can collect taxes and the growers can operate within an organized system.
Norway recently announced that it will become the first Scandinavian country to decriminalise drugs. The majority of the Norwegian parliament backed the historic move and directed the national government to reform its policies on drugs.
15 years ago Portugal decriminalised the use of drugs of this kind and today their Health Ministry “estimates that only about 25,000 Portuguese use heroin, down from 100,000 when the policy began”. Compare that with the US where around 64,000 persons died of drug overdose in 2017 and this is almost the same as were killed in the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars combined.
I am not advocating leniency on illegal drug traffickers, nor am I advocating legalising unregulated use of drugs, I am advocating an enlightened approach to the use of cannabis and a focus on the commercialisation of this plant which has been around for more than over 10,000 years!
Let’s do this!