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Jamaica Eyes Pot Tourism

Maureen Meehan

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Following Jamaica’s long-awaited marijuana decriminalization legislation, drafted last October, it is now contemplating the obvious benefits of integrating ganja into the country’s tourism industry so as to reap the economic and social benefits. Jamaican farmers and some politicians are pushing to capitalize on what is already a homegrown industry with an international brand.

Thanks to many elements in Jamaican society, including a ganja network that has boomed for years in tourist areas, name recognition should not be a problem. Many experts agree that Jamaica’s tourism market was created because of marijuana. So why not build on it and rake in much-needed tax revenue?

Other Caribbean countries also argue for embracing marijuana as a tourism draw. At a recent Caribbean Tourism Organization meeting, member countries agreed that the CTO itself should adopt cannabis as a Caribbean commodity, recognizing that most tourists to the Caribbean “anticipate smoking weed.”

Terrence Nelson, a US Virgin Islands legislator, called for the creation of a “Caribbean cannabis trade organization” to market marijuana tourism, with proceeds going to a “superfund” for infrastructure improvements in “electricity, water, Internet, hospitals and healthcare facilities.”

Drug Policy Alliance founder Ethan Nadelmann, speaking at the Negril Chamber of Congress recently, couldn’t agree more. According to Nadelmann, Jamaica should focus on integrating ganja with tourism to maximize the benefits of future legalization.

However, Nadelmann advised his Jamaican friends to keep their eye on trends. “Consumer tastes have shifted from outdoor growing, which is what you do in Jamaica, to indoor growing.” He warned that Jamaica could end up importing ganja from the US if they don’t move forward quickly and fine-tune their legalization policies.

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