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Decision on new marijuana policy needed sooner rather than later

A new, legal global mega-industry is emerging. The idea that marijuana is a dangerous drug that should be banned is rapidly fading.

Uruguay was the first country to fully legalize it in December 2013. Its dispensaries began selling weed in July 2017.

Canada will be the second country to do so on October 17.

In the United States marijuana is illegal at the federal level. Nine states have, however, fully legalized it. Medical marijuana is legal in 31.

In a report by Arcview Market Research, in partnership with BDS Analytics, it is projected that consumer spending around the world on legal marijuana will reach $57 billion by 2027.

Jamaica decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2015 and opened up to a medical marijuana industry.

It was reported yesterday that Jamaica made its first shipment of medical marijuana extract oil to Canada.

As reported in the Jamaica Gleaner, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw said: “Jamaica is uniquely positioned to be a global player and we are committed to providing the leadership and resources required for opening the international markets including Canada and Europe for our licensed and regulated Jamaican companies.”

The shipment was authorized via permits from both governments.

Jamaica is boldly stepping into new legal industry. As more and more countries legalize cannabis and its various products, the sector will likely be worth hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

The Bahamas has the only two mega-resorts in the region. It sits on the border of the richest country in the world. And yet, we still have had 10 percent unemployment for nearly a decade.

We need new industry to reinvigorate this economy.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis should be commended for trying to set the policy for the development of a technology industry in Grand Bahama. The island needs it. Its depression has led to a contraction of the population.

But what else?

We cling to an archaic view of cannabis. Here it’s just illegal. We jail our people for possession of it. We ban its cultivation.

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a drug for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy. This was the first FDA-approved drug containing a substance derived from marijuana.

So many products can be created from the various varieties of cannabis. There are drinks, sleep aids, edibles, creams and beauty products, medicines, construction materials, clothing, biofuel, paper, types of plastic composites and many other applications.

The Bahamas is sitting on the sideline as countries line up to make big money from this new industry in its legal form. What are we afraid of? We won’t even have a serious policy discussion about change.

The government announced it was forming a commission but it increasingly seems that announcement was more talk than a real commitment to create a policy framework to evolve away from prohibition and toward industry.

Young Bahamians and would-be entrepreneurs should step up their efforts to pressure the government to emerge from the stone age and see what’s happening around the world. The leaders we have, on both political sides, are fearful of change. Sir Stafford Sands left them tourism and financial services and that’s what they are sticking with.

If the people show our leaders they are ready to end prohibition and become owners of a new industry, they might start to think differently. You have the power to make them act differently.

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