“Once the UN does make the necessary adjustment, the floodgates will open and the rest of the world—including major bandwaggonists Trinidad and Tobago—will all of a sudden see this as a non-issue. So if we take the risk now, where, realistically, in the Western Hemisphere would the diplomatic backlash come from? Certainly not the USA, who are skidding along on a technicality, state by state, and have lost the moral authority to protest.
“This article does not seek to win you over by convincing you that marijuana is a wonder drug for the healing of the nation or that smoking it is merely some harmless vice. It simply seeks to remind all that you cannot stop an idea whose time has come, which is the case with marijuana. Maybe, it seeks simply to suggest, we in T&T can capitalise on it.”
The following is the second part of Jabal Hassanali’s column on the potential benefits of a legalised marijuana industry in Trinidad and Tobago:
Meanwhile, our poor, ‘backwards’ farmers languish. Theirs is a neglected industry with farmers routinely dismissed and stereotyped as being uneducated. Yet despite the lack of support, they are somehow resilient and innovative enough to produce the world’s hottest peppers and some of its finest cocoa beans.
Marijuana might just be the high-profile commodity with enough ‘cool factor’ to correct this unfortunate perception as well as with the immediate potential profitability to make the unscrupulous reconsider further encroaching and shrinking the country’s prospects for actual food security.
And what if our educational institutions were to get into the act?
Agricultural Science could once again be a very popular field among the nation’s youth and what might begin as an immature fascination with marijuana could actually burgeon into a real passion for the growing of food in general.
With legalisation, academic research into marijuana—its positive medicinal benefits as well as its harmful effects—would be a lot less encumbered and, although we are very late to join the party, I feel sure we would be able to produce innovations and findings that would not only be relevant globally but useful to our own local context as well.
Over time, these findings would feed back into public policy, helping us to chart the best way forward in literally uncharted territory.
Back on the subject of public policy, this is another reason why legalisation trumps decriminalization. As noted before, the new social norms that would be created by this paradigm shift have to be carefully considered and anticipated from the outset.
Before we design the eventual system, potential conflicts between smokers and non-smokers—where and when persons will be allowed to smoke—the protection of minors, how and in what forms can the drug be packaged, marketed and dispensed, where it will be made available and THC/potency restrictions are all issues that must be publicly ventilated and openly discussed and debated through meaningful consultation.
In that same spirit, however, we must remember that focused consultation should not degenerate into mere lip service and pussyfooting. We cannot allow ourselves to be paralysed by inaction because we are trying to develop the perfect system.
Perfect in this regard is the enemy of good and, no matter how much due diligence we undertake, it must be recognised that there will always be kinks and blind spots in the early stages of the experiment. Still, even the creation of an imperfect legal market can go a long way toward seriously disrupting the black market.
To derive maximum benefit from so doing, we shall have to ensure that we keep the barriers of entry into the industry so that it is made easily accessible to persons from disenfranchised communities.
We should aim to cripple criminal gangs by attracting as many of the over 18 foot soldiers or potential foot soldiers as possible away from their clutches and ushering them into the regulatory system. Using both carrot and stick at the same time, we must redouble efforts to crack down on and destroy illegal fields.
In this regard, the involvement of the Defence Force and other armed services will be critical.
Finally, I must touch on the elephant in the room. Pursuing this course of action puts our country directly in contravention of a number of international laws and treaty obligations. This is one reason cited by many why, in spite of all the talk, legalisation is simply a non-starter.
It should be noted that these treaties date back to the 70s and late 80s and are a throwback to the globally declared ‘War on Drugs,’ a war today largely recognised by most analysts to have been a failure. Still, to date, only one country has explicitly defied these treaties by legalising marijuana at a federal level—Uruguay dared to do it in late 2013.
And while its actions have been met by public rebuke and warnings from the UN, there have been no real sanctions of any kind. In fact, after the UN’s special session on drugs in 2016, they themselves seem to have realized that the treaties are outdated and run the risk of irrelevance, particularly regarding marijuana.
Canada, a globally respected ally to most countries, has recently introduced its own marijuana legalisation. If it is passed, this will put even more pressure on the UN to reform their stance rather than the other way around.
Bear in mind that, once the UN does make the necessary adjustment, the floodgates will open and the rest of the world—including major bandwaggonists Trinidad and Tobago—will all of a sudden see this as a non-issue. So if we take the risk now, where, realistically, in the Western Hemisphere would the diplomatic backlash come from?
Certainly not the USA, who are skidding along on a technicality, state by state, and have lost the moral authority to protest.
Coming perhaps some five years too late, this article does not seek to win you over by convincing you that marijuana is a wonder drug for the healing of the nation or that smoking it is merely some harmless vice. It simply seeks to remind all that you cannot stop an idea whose time has come, which is the case with marijuana.
Maybe, it seeks simply to suggest, we in T&T can capitalise on it.
The fact of the matter is that nowadays a great number of teenagers and practically all young adults and everyone older than that, regardless of their socio-economic background, have relatively easy access to weed and can try it if they so desire. However, the risk and danger involved in both the quality of the product and the actual transaction varies considerably across classes. This should not be.
The onus is on us to remove the wool from our eyes and, in the interest of fairness to all, try a different approach. And perhaps make some money on the side as well.
As a diversification option, this opportunity represents relatively low-hanging fruit that can be plucked in the short-to-medium term if we play our cards right.
We can simultaneously reduce crime and boost tourism and the economy.
One stone(r), two birds.
Editor’s note: Click HERE to read Part One of Jabal Hassanali’s column on the potential benefits to business, tourism and agriculture of decriminalising marijuana usage in Trinidad and Tobago.