John Myers Jr, Gleaner Writer
Those advocating for the legalisation of ganja are suggesting that tourism officials consider incorporating it among the unique attributes of Jamaica when promoting the island to attract high-spending tourists.
Paul Chang, chairman of the Ganja Law Reform Coalition told a Gleaner Editor's Forum last Wednesday that ganja has the potential to change the fortunes of the tourism sector, which is traditionally serviced by low-spending visitors mainly from the United States.
However, Chang argued that if tourism officials decided to add ganja to the alluring attributes of Jamaica, like reggae, jerk and the many pristine beaches that the island is renowned for, it could "enhance our tourism product in a high-end area".
About two million tourists flock to our shores annually, but the majority of them who come from the US - 63 per cent - is considered budget spenders. The island earns about US$2 billion annually from tourism. So far, the Jamaica Tourist Board, which is responsible for marketing Jamaica to travellers globally has been struggling to attract high-end tourists in large numbers, like in the early years when celebrities such as the famed James Bond creator Errol Flynn would visit regularly.
Several multibillion-dollar projects such as Harmony Cove and Palmyra, which were being developed for the high-end tourism market, have failed to get off the ground or completed.
In May, the five-diamond ultra-luxury Ritz-Carlton pulled out of Jamaica.
Chang claimed that taping the high-end tourism market is not difficult, as there were high-spending tourists, based on his interaction with travellers, who are ready to holiday in Jamaica if it were legal to consume ganja, both for medical and recreational purposes.
"We are talking about adding significant spend per tourist if we move from the typical all-inclusive that buys all imported goods that don't really spin-off any local benefits, to branding (for) medical and recreational cannabis (ganja)," Chang said.
He added: "We don't need to sell it to the world. We could focus our (ganja) tourism on one market - New York ... . We have specific opportunities for brand Jamaica; we cannot depend on the sand and the surf and the cruise ships only."