Pubdate: Tue, 11 Mar 2014
Source: Virgin Islands Daily News, The (VI)
Copyright: 2014 The Associated Press
Author: Bert Wilkinson, The Associated Press


GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) - Caricom researchers have found that 
decriminalizing marijuana and exploring its use for medicinal 
purposes could help boost the region's sluggish economy.

Caricom leaders are expected to talk about the preliminary report 
during the two-day summit that began Monday on St. Vincent. The 
report was released Friday to The Associated Press.

Experts said the Caribbean already has a built-in competitive 
advantage with marijuana cultivation, noting that Jamaican 
researchers have launched a company that produces therapeutic and 
cosmetic products derived from the plants.

"The region may wish therefore to explore any commercial benefit from 
a potential multi-billion industry including research and development 
and also the production of medical marijuana products," the report stated.

Activists in Jamaica, St. Lucia and other islands have pushed to 
legalize marijuana use, with Jamaica's health minister recently 
stating he was "fully on board" with medical marijuana. However, many 
in the Caribbean still consider it a dangerous drug, and marijuana 
possession can lead to jail time and stiff fines across the region.

Caricom spokesman Leonard Robertson said leaders would examine the 
report, but noted it is not a key issue on the agenda. His comments 
were echoed by others including St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.

Marijuana has been decriminalized in other parts of the Western Hemisphere.

Uruguay recently became the first country to approve nationwide pot 
legalization, while Washington and Colorado passed recreational laws 
in 2012. In addition, 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia 
already have medical marijuana laws.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom