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Entrepreneur: Marijuana could be a billion-dollar industry

Medical and recreational marijuana could be a billion-dollar industry in The Bahamas, given the country’s multimillion count of visitors per annum, according to Elliot Hepburn-Marshall, president of Bahama Cann and CEO of Oakland, California-based Proper Rx Collective, which delivers medical marijuana to patients. He told Guardian Business on Monday that if marijuana was given the green light today in The Bahamas it would take 1.5 to two years before the industry could be viable.

Hepburn-Marshall, who hails from Grand Bahama but moved to California to pursue his business, was refuting the Report of the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana 2018, which states that The Bahamas could see a financial benefit of about $5 million from the legalization of marijuana and regulation of its sale and use. Hepburn-Marshall said the population of The Bahamas is quite close to that of Oakland, California, where he runs his business. In Oakland, before recreational use of marijuana was allowed by the state, medical marijuana sales were bringing in a little less than $1 billion, according to Hepburn-Marshall.

He contended that because The Bahamas attracts close to six million visitors per year, if medical and recreational marijuana were given the green light, the country could bring in close to $1.5 billion.

“Oakland is not a tourism mecca,” he said.

“We see much more tourists here (The Bahamas) than they do there. This is easily a $1.5 billion-plus industry in The Bahamas, if not more, just depending on how open it is, if it’s only medical or if it’s recreational as well.”

Bahama Cann recently commissioned a poll which revealed that Bahamians are in favor of legalizing marijuana and see the medicinal benefits of the plant.

“We wanted to see just how controversial it was and the polling was a way to get a pulse of where the people are,” said Hepburn-Marshall.

“We have a lot of sick people here, and just about every Bahamian has been drugs”, which includes marijuana use, has been a bane on the lives of black and poor people in the U.S. and The Bahamas. While the U.S. has been slowly opening up to the use of marijuana for recreation and as a medicine, black people have still been disproportionately ostracized from the benefits of its liberalization.

Hepburn-Marshall thinks The Bahamas could be a poster child for black ownership in the marijuana industry.

“The war on drugs has been a failure,” he said.

“It’s oppression of black people and it pretty much stated that in the CARICOM report. And it’s almost like we’re hearing that we like that oppression, and we’re okay with that oppression for now. I push back against that. I despise that oppression. The war on drugs has destroyed families in our country, and we’re still destroying families while it’s a globally recognized industry with tens of billions of dollars transferred every year.

“This is our opportunity to be at the table and for upward mobility for Bahamians, to get us in an industry besides service, and that’s been the point this time in this fight.”

Hepburn-Marshall said the legalization of marijuana in the U.S. changed his life and his business.

“I miss home,” he said. “I want to come home, and I would love to be a part of bringing this industry back here and be able to continue my life.”

According to Hepburn-Marshall, about 35 different sectors could be created or positively affected by the legalization of marijuana; some would benefit as ancillary industries.

He said some of the industries that could benefit from marijuana legalization are accounting, advertising and marketing, compliance, events and conferences, extraction and processing equipment sellers, real estate, lab and testing services.

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