James McNish, Contributor
For centuries we have been socialised that marijuana is destructive and harmful to our health. Astounding as that assertion is, it is true. During the 1970s the subject of the benefits of marijuana was first explored, since then not much has been done to advance this subject. The current issue is how Jamaica can capitalise on the potential of the medicinal properties of marijuana to revitalise our economic performance.
More and more countries are legally and socially accepting marijuana, especially for its medicinal properties. Although marijuana remains illegal under federal laws, the United States (US) is the leading country, the game changer, in promoting the medicinal properties of marijuana use by relaxing its federal laws not to challenge state efforts to decriminalise marijuana. It is interesting to note that since 1996, the US, where 20 states have decriminalised marijuana use, has been radically redefining the negative image associated with marijuana, to a socially, medically and legally accepted one. Within this context, the US has undoubtedly taken a quantum leap.
In Europe there is a similar trend towards decriminalising marijuana for medicinal and recreational use. Recently concluded research, conducted by the Institute for Social and Economic Research of University of Essex, has revealed that the United Kingdom stands to gain an estimated 1.5 billion pounds from the decriminalisation of marijuana. Throughout Netherlands, there are marijuana coffee shops and cafes, operating under regulation, to satisfy the burgeoning demand of patients experiencing excruciating pain, multiple sclerosis, asthma and epilepsy. Large pharmaceutical companies, producing value-added products, are positioning themselves to take advantage of the increasing benefits of marijuana for medicinal purposes. In addition, the ultra-conservative Germany is contemplating the decriminalisation of marijuana for medicinal purposes. These phenomena revolutionise the way marijuana is consumed and viewed.
new wave of investment
A review of Jamaica's economic performance suggests that our traditional industries will not be able to provide the type of investment to generate sustained and robust economic activities. A new wave of economic investment is necessary to move our economy in a positive direction. A proposal is to engage in intellectually stimulating discussions and debates in and outside parliament as to the costs and benefits of capitalising on the benefits of marijuana. A debate on this subject has been started in Parliament by the Government and it is expected that the Opposition should participate in subsequent debates to achieve consensus.
Based on the trend in US, marijuana will very soon be legalised in all states for medicinal and recreational purposes. How will Jamaica respond to this unprecedented phase of history relating to this outcome? Should Jamaica, naturally endowed with the finest quality of marijuana, take the necessary steps to effect legal reforms for the decriminalisation of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes as well as marijuana tourism? I am exhorting the Government to act decisively and swiftly on this issue in order to maximise our economic opportunities.
James McNish is a lecturer. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.