Our Readers' Opinions
February 13, 2018
Catch the weed boat now!

by Shafia London-Williams

Travel the world and Barbados is known for Rihanna; Jamaica is known for Usain Bolt; St Lucia is known for Dereck Walcott. SVG is known for… the best weed.

Is that a bad thing? In my opinion, no. Why then aren’t we using it to our benefit?

There has been much discussion on legalization of marijuana in recent times.

If SVG continues to pussyfoot in making a firm decision on this matter, we could miss a potential game changing boat… if we have not already missed it. We are already at least five years behind.

Legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes makes sense from a fiscal standpoint and truth be told, SVG needs a fiscal game changer. It is my opinion that marijuana presents the perfect opportunity.

For those who argue that there are greater fiscal and other benefits in it remaining criminal, I beg that you take a look around and apply the laws of economics, particularly that which speaks to supply and demand. In layman terms, people will not pay more for Vincy weed if they can get it cheaply and easily everywhere.

If SVG continues to lag behind in the land of criminal marijuana, we are potentially denying ourselves access to an opportunity that could lead to balanced budgets. There are numerous examples of US states that have reaped such benefits. Colorado jumps to mind, as they collected more than $6 million in tax revenue in the first two months of legalizing marijuana.

Recreational weed could be the biggest cash crop since bananas. This will create jobs and economic opportunities in the formal economy, instead of the illicit market. The Government can acquire significant new sources of tax revenue from regulating marijuana sales.

Here is how I think it could work for SVG, but we do not have much time, so we must act fast. We can plant and export organic weed, with regulated farming standards, as we did for bananas. Where the big opportunity lies, however, is tourism. SVG could distinguish itself by presenting a tourism product as the hub of recreational marijuana in the region – sun, sea and weed. This may sound comical, but the historical success of the marijuana business worldwide is sufficient to confirm the great demand. This, of course, does not exclude those who desire its use for medicinal purposes and facilities could easily be set up to accommodate such persons. SVG could attract hundreds, if not thousands of visitors to our shores with this simple brand positioning.

Like Holland, we can open licensed shops and cafes. We can even go as far as hosting events, such as an annual weed festival. Sounds crazy? It’s not. Imagine a festival attracting thousands of persons to experience music and fun, but most importantly delicacies made of marijuana, taking tours to our farms and learning about the different strains.

We can procure the services of a well recognized university or researcher (not a chef – pun intended) to validate what we all have been told for many years that SVG is the source of the “best” weed. With a proper marketing investment and scientific validation, legalization represents a potential revenue windfall.

On a related note, legalization presents a chance to relieve the immense burden that our country faces with the cost of law enforcement and prisons. Our prisons are already overcrowded and contributing to an already difficult penal problem over something as minimal in consequence as weed use might not be in our best interest. We could save money.

Further, there are many convincing schools of thought that the criminal issues related to marijuana is directly linked to its illegality and trade control by nefarious individuals who trade in hardcore man-made drugs, such as cocaine. We put them out of business.

Note that I’m not saying marijuana should be unregulated. Studies still point to some dangers, especially young adults’ brains, up to and including development of schizophrenia, and we should remain cautious until the dangers are more clear. As a trained biochemist (BSc 1st Hons), I’m very much familiar with the biochemical reasons for and against its use, just as those for alcohol.

Legalizing recreational marijuana across the country would mean enforcing appropriate age restrictions and consumption limits — moderation is as important as it is for anything else. Let us be reminded that alcohol was once illegal and prohibited and is now one of the biggest commercial items, but it is regulated.

To be clear, tax revenue derived from the sale of recreational weed and cash flows from businesses related to the industry wouldn’t singlehandedly close our budget deficits — but it’d be a welcome start. SVG, are we going to bravely catch the boat now or wait until everyone is on it, then try to hop on and find a space?