Pubdate: Wed, 19 Jun 2013
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2013 The Gleaner Company Limited
Author: Dr Andre Haughton


Dr Andre Haughton

Where is the world headed?

INVESTORS WORLDWIDE are seeking to maximise earnings by investing in
markets with the most lucrative projected earnings.

Last Friday, a group of Wall Street investors seeking to invest in
legal marijuana ventures, including that for medicinal purposes,
compared the current upsurge in the marijuana industry to the
technology boom of the 1990s. According to researchers in Washington,
a fully functioning marijuana industry could earn the state little
over US$1 billion per year.

Although difficult to calculate, economists have estimated that the
total value of the marijuana industry, worldwide, is anywhere between
US$10 and US$150 billion currently.

A 2010 World Health Organisation report revealed that more than 5.7
per cent of the world's population, an estimated 250 million people,
use marijuana around the world for recreational or medicinal purposes.

The world is changing. More countries and states have been exploring
this industry in an effort to boost economic growth and development
through innovative ways.

A company called My 4/20 Tours, from Colorado, is the first
marijuana-related tourism company in the US. Its owners have pledged
to provide a safe, fun-filled environment where adults can have a
great Colorado vacation.

Upon arrival in Colorado, marijuana tourists are escorted to marijuana
shops in limousines, courtesy of the My 4/20 Tour guides. The company
also provides a tour of commercial-growing operations as well as
conduct marijuana workshops and cooking classes.

The name 4/20 comes from the international marijuana day which is
celebrated on the 20th of April each year. Colorado's Amendment 64,
enact as article 18, section 16, of the state constitution, regulates
marijuana in a similar way to alcohol.

It permits personal use and outlines the regulations of marijuana
usage for adults over the age of 21, as well as commercial
cultivation, manufacturing and sale.

The marijuana industry has been booming in Colorado ever since,
providing worthwhile employment, increased revenues for investors and
increased tax revenues for the government. The industry has been
expanding and new industries are now opening for edible marijuana.

Is marijuana legal?

Although marijuana is illegal almost everywhere, some countries have
implemented laws to permit the use, possession and cultivation, for
medicinal and recreational purposes in some instances. In the US, 18
states have enacted laws to legalise the use of medical marijuana.

Two states, Colorado and Washington, permit the sale and possession of
marijuana for non-medicinal purposes.

Holland and Spain are the two largest marijuana tourism destinations
in Europe. However, new legislation, soon to take effect in Holland,
will ban non-nationals (tourists) especially those from inside the EU,
from consuming marijuana in the country.

In Spain, it is legal to cultivate marijuana for personal use. Every
citizen is allowed up to 80 grams per month.

If Jamaica were to decriminalise marijuana and allow possession of
small quantities and personal use, it would not be the only country to
do so. The following countries allow consumption and the possession of
small quantities currently - Argentina, some states in Australia,
Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Macedonia
Mexico, Peru, Portugal Russia, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela.

What are the arguments for marijuana?

In 2005, a group of more than 530 prominent economists, including
Milton Friedman and two other Nobel Prize winners, sent an open letter
to President George Bush's administration, advocating for the
legalisation of marijuana in the United States.

The letter stated that legalisation would save the US government $7.7
billion per year on federal and state expenditure on marijuana-related
cases and, at the same time, generate more than $6.2 billion in annual
tax revenues.

They urged the United States government to engage an open and honest
debate on the legalisation of marijuana, a debate they believe would
support the enactment of laws, which would tax and regulate marijuana,
similar to other goods. In the US, a study in 2007 revealed that
marijuana-related charges and inmates in prisons cost more than US$1
billion annually. Research is needed to ascertain how much it really
costs the Jamaican Government.

Can Jamaica benefit from marijuana?

Apart from being the only illegal plant in the world, marijuana, a
natural herb, has been classified a drug by non-users and unaware
activists who fail to educate themselves about the plant.

Despite this, governments have been tailor-making laws to boost
marijuana-tourism industries worldwide. The best natural marijuana in
the world is grown in Jamaica and, with Holland implementing laws to
ban tourists, Jamaica could capitalise significantly on this

At some point in time, the country will have to lead itself by
implementing proactive laws that suit the culture and marketability of
the destination, thereby, resurrecting the livelihood of some of the
people in depressed areas, as well as generating needed tax revenues
for Government.

In this new world where some conventional goods and services are
failing to sustain an economy, a country must adapt and become
flexible by implementing necessary laws that will benefit the people
and the country as a whole.

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Dr Andre Haughton is a lecturer in the Department of Economics on the
Mona campus of the University of the West Indies. Follow him on
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MAP posted-by: Matt