Not condemning: Can our country contrive to convert cannabis cultivation into hard cash?

EPL Infrafred Sauna

“Police burned millions of dollars worth of marijuana plants,” announced a newspaper headline last week, not for the first time. Not for the first time, we dismissed the story simply as the drug rings at it again and went on with our business and our lives.

But what if we saw cannabis as our business, not just in the MYOB sense but in the larger economic sense of a viable economic diversification option?

Photo: A poster sends the message that marijuana is not all bad

Apart from the obvious one that Trinidad and Tobago would join countries like Canada, Portugal and Norway in the decriminalisation of drugs, three important possible consequences suggest themselves to me. Firstly, we would stop jailing “little black boys” for the recreational use of cannabis. Secondly, the agricultural sector—and the economy—would find a potential foreign exchange earner to give it a much-needed boost and finally, T&T would benefit from early mover advantage in the commercialisation of cannabis.

Globally, the tide has turned on cannabis. There is a spike in global demand for the herb as attempts are made to satisfy both the recreational and medicinal needs. But while the developed world is consolidating its cannabis business, we in T&T are burning the plants and beating our chests about our performance in the “war against drugs.” Don’t take my word for it; go check out a November 27, 2017 story on CBC Radio Canada titled “Canada’s marijuana industry enters consolidation phase.”

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.

Portugal decriminalised the use of drugs as long as 15 years ago and today the Health Ministry in that country “estimates that only about 25,000 Portuguese use heroin, down from 100,000 when the policy began.” Compare that with the US, where, in 2017, around 64,000 persons died of drug overdoses, almost as many people as lost their lives in the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars combined.

Photo: A pharmacist cultivates medical marijuana in Colorado.

Here in Trinidad and Tobago, I am told, the agricultural conditions are great for us to enter this market as a grower. We were once tobacco farmers so why can’t we become cannabis farmers? Besides, there’s another bird to be killed with this one stone since there’s a good chance that young people, so turned off by agriculture at present, will be attracted to cultivating “de herb.”

Decriminalising marijuana would free up police time, allowing them to deal, we all have to hope, with generally improving the detection rare and particularly with solving murders. The practice of charging persons for the recreational use of cannabis is known to encourage corruption among police officers who willingly accept “ah lil change” not to press charges. In addition, presumably busy with other police duties—ha!—police officers further clog up the already overburdened justice system by not turning up in court when they do charge a “youth man.”

Some people object to decriminalising the use of cannabis on the grounds that It is a gateway drug; the empirical evidence simply does not support that notion. People who abuse drugs to their detriment are sick and should be dealt with by the health care system, not the penal system.

I am not, mind you, advocating leniency on drug traffickers. Nor am I advocating legalising drug use. What I am advocating is 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!

Cannabis cultivation is a train T&T needs to ride, maybe even drive. So, people, let’s do this! #yeswecannabis.

Not condemning, just commenting.

Photo: A legal marijuana store in Colorado, United States.
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About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming grew up in East Dry River, Port of Spain and has more than 30 years experience as a communication strategist, political commentator and event planner. She has 15 years experience lecturing business communications at UWI and is the co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain. Dennise is a member of the HOPE political party.

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  1. there are #GreenHikes and #GreenTours taking place in SVG, St Lucia, Jamaica, Colorado…
    what #GreenTourism is about is more than just getting high and eating ten bags of potato chips…there are MANY people who are seeking out REAL experiences in the outdoor cannabis consumption sector

  2. take a look at this #GreenHike from some canna enthusiasts
    [if you waiting for the big bongo natty and the Moruga man with the trapgun…you won’t see that stereotype here]
    roll the tape:

  3. Not to be redundant, but Trinidad and Tobago is missing the boat – it can be a cannabis haven for persons who are not living in a cannabis-legal state IF we make it legal and standardise the practices for organic production of medically-superior varieties. We are also missing out on opportunities for further research to refine the current knowledge. There is income to be made whether or not we are prepared. Preparation is not impossible. Read lots more

  4. hmm… this article seems mighty familiar… where have I read this before? lol…

    in all seriousness though… the author herself seems to be conflating decriminilization and legalization… cherrypicking from both concepts where convenient… personally I think decriminilization is a half measure… that would probably cause more harm than good.. especially given the culture of lawlessness in Trinidad to begin with.

    • Interesting take. I feel an explanation as to why decriminilization might be worse could be a good follow-up blog. 😉

      • haha.. i think i covered that aspect sufficiently the first time round #shamelessplug:

        “With our laissez-faire approach to everything, I can easily see a policy of small amounts decriminalisation spiralling, emboldening more people to pursue illegal growing operations. Much of this will take place under the cover of tropical forests and other ecologically sensitive areas that are laxly monitored and already under siege.

        Give Trinis an inch and they take a mile. Decriminalization fosters an environment of uncertainty, and it is under these Wild, Wild West conditions, that bullies, on either side of the law, make the rules, to the detriment of the ordinary citizen. A well thought out legal regulatory framework, however, while not outright eliminating these repercussions, would go a long way towards addressing them. Licensed growers can be redirected to operate in the areas we want them to.”

        Actually, now that I reread it, the entire piece was basically about why legalization trumps decriminalization. What is Wired868’s policy regarding reposting articles? lol 😉

  5. the author of the article clearly states decriminalization of marijuana while some in this thread are using the word legalization…be mindful they are two entirely different talking points…hence im wondering if they are actually on the same page in relation to the issue or are trying to promote their personal views, using the article as a reference point…which would be misleading at best

  6. Look at Holland, Colorado, California, New Jersey etc. They have not seen an increase in crime or drug abuse. Legalizing it and decriminalizing it will only have positive results. Plus tourism and valuable foreign cash will pour in.

  7. a few points of note:
    1: Bush weed—of the type usually destroyed in these eradication exercises—is not the type of product that can be developed for export.
    2: The illicit ganja trade does not use any of the cannabis industry best practices
    3: Bush weed growers often utilise very large amounts of often dangerous chemical fertilisers, weedicides and pesticides in their quick grow strategies that have little consideration for water resources and animal life or the negative impacts to the ecology.
    While T&T must contemplate a #Legal #cannabusiness industry as part of our economic diversification strategy, irresponsible, clandestine, unregulated ganja farming will not have a legitimate place in this going forward.
    that is not to say that small-scale farmers have no place in the future ganja economy—the opposite will be true: co-op ganja farming will ensure that local users can still have product to consume, as the preferred crop species and cultivars for export would be priced at a rate far above the current market prices.
    It is very likely that little or no T&T ganja and dirivatives would end up in the local supply unless at the highest segments of the boutique weed market

  8. That occurs when the politicians are old, archaic, conservative people, including some who may wear a rasta hairstyle as a form of camouflage. It is my belief that the other side of the coin may be a bit more liberal though.

  9. Stamping down on marijuana but letting the cocaine pass

  10. Proud of you Dinnise. Trinidad is missing the international and regional train again.

  11. This is not a conversation for the dotish. End the drug war now or prove it can be won.

  12. That would mean a changing of the Guards mind set and old colonial brainwashments !

  13. Legalize it! It’s good for he economy , for tourism as well. Need to legalize gay marriage too .. See tourism shoot up!

    • You would be cool with your children sitting in your living room smoking marijuana?

    • Nicholas Steupz it’s like everything else .. are you cool with your children sitting in your living room drinking alcohol ?

    • I’d have no issue seeing my children drinking a beer or a Bailey’s or a Smirnoff. Now do you with marijuana.

    • Its a lifestyle choice plus there are people who need it for medical reasons. If a person wants marijuana they will find it but whatever means wherever they are. I could develop an addiction to any otc drug or ripe fig … is the same thing

    • This is the problem with our society , we feel that we need to police everything especially what our children do. But if we grow up children responsibly , they become adults who make educated choices. A beer today could be puncheon tomorrow or wine or none. A parent who smokes can’t stop a child from smoking.

    • Devica, then they visit Amsterdam and giggle as they go in to the “coffee” shops.
      Doesn’t make sense. I’m sure far worse things have happened as a result of alcohol as opposed to weed.
      But we have to be open minded and able to challenge what we have been taught all our lives.

    • Devica.
      Economically speaking.
      Your comment on gay marriage, but to elevate it: market destination getaway for gays. All forex problems solved.

      You win Trinidadnets!

    • Maven Huggins we have so many local gays who go abroad and get married then come here and keep it quiet. I have a cousin in the US trying to organize vacation trips to Trinidad and the tourism board haven’t even responded to an email. Jokers in this place don’t know how to make money

    • Why does your cousin need any govt body’s participation.

      Not needed. Nope. No. Naw.

      Fully willing to assist. Connect you to specific links for tours.stays. accommodations.
      Excursions. Group events.
      Organize group rates on travel — best organized on US end.

      And! There are ordinators who do gay weddings here.

      Trinidad jokey.
      Like we almost have more gays and closet gays, and big people than full hetero.

    • Lasana Liburd it’s also a waste of policeman’s court time. See fellas in court for a half a joint … Steups

    • If your people have the resources you can even charter yachts from NY straight to Trinidad. Especially arriving a week before Carnival. ?! Lol
      Madness of Fun.

    • Maven Huggins she’s new at this travel agent / organizer thing.. it’s not my field so I’m unable to assist her. But I told her I don’t know who’s guaranteeing any tourist safety at this time

    • Devica that also criminalizes young men and women and give Police the chance to pick on them for easy scores when they could be seeking bigger fish.

    • That like food has to be organized. With the right people, from drivers, to support, to body guards. Nothing happens by accident.

      As bad as things appear for the callous, unprotected and careless, a whole bunch of all level folk arrive down here. Move around and have the best time.

      Not an issue. Resource$ are.
      Links are known

    • Imagine big fish loose a market that’s now run by the government. Strict age limit, monitored dealers and restricted amount to purchase.. yep adjusting my brownie recipe ?

    • I never advocated against medical use, I asked if you, YOU, would be comfortable with your, YOUR children smoking marijuana in your presence. To me that is a yes or no question.

    • The answer I suspect, isn’t forthcoming because you – and perhaps Liburd too – are advocating for decriminalisation and legalisation whilst it remains taboo and ‘criminalised’ in your own homes. You and Lasana eh comin’ home to allyuh 18yr old smokin a joint and sitting down with him to say ‘how yuh day was?’.

    • Nicholas, I don’t smoke anything at all–legal or illegal. And I wouldn’t encourage anyone to do so, including my children.
      But I know that, to a large extent, people are allowed their own vices once they are not dangerous to others. What I’m saying is I don’t think marijuana is even as dangerous as many legal things out there and I think our attempt to stamp out marijuana use is counter productive for several reasons.
      If people are going to smoke anyway, then try to create a safe environment from them and look for the benefits to be gained.
      I don’t gamble. But I won’t demand that NLCB be shut down.

    • I hear that argument but is it really as counter-productive as we think it is? Perhaps there are hundreds of people out there whose first marijuana charge set them on the right path away from drugs and criminal activity.
      This country needs statistics though because regardless of my personal feeling if I saw local stats that made the argument that we are populating the jails with individuals who have simply smoked a joint, I would be for decriminalisation.
      If it is legalised, however, I’d hope they prevent it from being yet another Massy subsidiary.

    • Hahaha. If and when the Gov’t do legalise it, I’m sure it WOULD be because the corporate who’s who are ready for it. It definitely won’t be for the benefit of the farmer in Moruga or wherever.
      You’re right that statistics would help though. For sure.
      Personally, I think a police charge won’t stop the majority of marijuana smokers any more than increased prices and warning labels stopped alcohol or tobacco consumers.
      And although I don’t smoke, I know several friends who do smoke weed and are quite well adjusted and contribute to society. And I know at least one famous writer who is as old as the hills and would regularly have a smoke and a glass or two of wine. So I don’t really buy the scare stories. I’m sure as in everything else, moderation is important.

  14. I have been saying this long time. Give farmers a license to grow it.

  15. Simpleminded all..while all over, still, killings are still the common way of.protecting turf. In Ja where there’s decriminalization, why are there still “Dons” massacaring others to protect turf.

    This herb which, obviously, medicinal properties no doubt, is no cure all as is touted. Same way mercoacaine (hope ah got it right) has been used in dentistry, it can also be a dangerous and addictive substance. The same way wine is touted to be good for the heart, the same wine has created alcoholics. The same can be said about cannabis sativa..

    The commercial world will exploit anything in the interest of the dollar, the the expense of overall human safety. How many “good drugs” are being sold, with the side effects being more detrimental than the benefits. Not enough research has been done over any period of time….

  16. Simple economics,90% of the Marijuana sold here is from Colombia or Canada and the states,why is that money leaving our economy instead of staying here?!?!

  17. Our leaders don’t have the balls. This current admin, with men like Garcia, imbert ect is as conservative as it gets. I had high hopes in ppl like alwari, shamfa and Dr dolly to be a young progressive force…HUGE disappointment. Just the fact that there is no discussion on the link between our local marijuana industry and the upsurge in violent crime tells me we not serious about change. Legalization of marijuana will have more impact on crime than 10 anti – gang bills.

  18. Yeah, and then they’ll blame the “white man” for capitalising on it

  19. Ravi Maharaj, Y is that not a conversation for Trinidad? Oh I almost forgot “rum til ah ded.”

  20. Not “might be” Trinidad and Tobago is out of step on marijuana.

  21. This is not a conversation for Trinidad. Move on

  22. Out of step on Marijuana n Hemp too.

  23. Top shelf foolishnesd going in T&T. All states in the USA are enjoying a hefty boost in tax revenue! Then again, T&T don’t even collect property taxes… so

    • Marijuana use is legal in only 8 of the 50 states. Medical marijuana use is legal in 39 states. Marijuana use is still prohibited in 3 states.

    • Nigel S. Scott What’s your point? You feel the need to pull hairs over absolute accuracy. If so, why did you not share with us the revenue each of those 40 plus states collects? My point is …. Taxes are collected from the sales. Revenue is critical for T&T. They need to wake up.

    • Kenneth I think my point is sufficiently made. Not sure why you’re being so defensive/antagonistic.

    • Regardless of whether it’s legal or not in 50 states of 1 state. In California alone, medical marijuana revenue continues to increase. Revenue from taxes and fees has increased each year, from $76 million in 2014 to $200 million last year! Trinidad and Tobago need to wake up and consider medical marijuana as a critical factor in generating revenue. Last year, pot tax revenue totaled $256 million in Washington and $60 million in Oregon, in the same year that Colorado brought in $200 million, according to VS Strategies.

    • Paula Trini Ayoung Exactly… Trinidad needs to wake up! I can’t wait for the latest financial reports. In the meantime, T&T spending millions to fight a losing war on marijuana. Most countries legalize marijuana to win that war but T&T is run by a bunch of hard-heads. The revenue generation potential is huge… for example, It is estimated that the current size of the US marijuana market is $45 billion per year, approximately 0.28 percent of the gross domestic product and comprising some 26 million pounds of marijuana consumed per year. Trinidad needs to wake up.

    • The legal cannabis market in the USA was worth an estimated $7.2 billion in 2016 and is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 17%.
      Medical marijuana sales are projected to grow from $4.7 billion in 2016 to $13.3 billion in 2020.
      Adult recreational sales are estimated to jump from $2.6 billion in 2016 to $11.2 billion by 2020.

      T&T’s cannabusiness industry can expect to generate €200–€350m exports annually from using less than 10% existing arable land

  24. burning ganja and the cocaine pass…

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