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Medical marijuana as economic industry?

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The issue of cultivating marijuana for the purpose of medical use is one that Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves is prepared to take political blows for.{{more}}

Following closely on the heels of his call for a conversation on reparations for genocide and slavery, he has now tabled a fresh call for a debate on the possibilities of medical marijuana as an economic and commercial industry.

At a press conference on Wednesday at Cabinet Room, Gonsalves stated that it is time for an intelligent conversation on “something which people are afraid to talk about.”

In a letter dated September 2, 2013, written to Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the current chairperson of CARICOM, Gonsalves suggested that the topic be tabled for preliminary debate during the meeting of the Bureau of CARICOM, slated for Trinidad and Tobago on September 17.

He also suggested that further discussions be held during the Inter-Sessional Conference of Heads, which takes place here in St Vincent and the Grenadines in February next year.

“I think it is high time that CARICOM address, regionally, this matter in a sensible, focussed, non-hysterical manner. After all, the marijuana plant has a bundle of proven, and potentially, beneficial uses,” the letter stated.

“It is true that its misuse and abuse and the consequential criminalization of its cultivation, possession and supply, have complicated and impacted on our people’s health, welfare and security,” it also went on to say.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Gonsalves revealed that he is aware that there are persons who use the drug strictly for its medicinal benefits.

He said that while the legal commercial and medical advantages should be explored, steps must be put in place to avoid the legal dangers.

“Right now, as I speak to you… there are upstanding people in this society whom I know personally, when they can’t open their hand properly, because of arthritis, they smoke ganja.

“I know persons who go to communion in the Catholic Church… boil the ganja bush and drink the tea, and ease their pain.

“Can’t we have a medical marijuana industry? That’s the question I am raising, using the plant for the good of humanity, those aspects of it which are not misused and abused, from which people can benefit.

He said that he is aware that persons may say that he has raised the topic in an effort to achieve political mileage, but that was a criticism that he is willing to take, since the issue is a serious one.

“I know that there are some people who will attack me and say I am opening the door to something dangerous… there are persons who will say that Ralph is playing politics; I understand they start to say that….

“I believe if I’m to suffer politically for this, so be it, but people will know that I’ve come to the issue, logically, rationally, and there is nothing wrong with having a discussion on the subject.”

The Prime Minister reinforced the point that what he was “bringing to the front burner”, was the consideration of medical marijuana, and not total legalization.

“As you notice, I am not calling for the decriminalization of ganja. I’m not calling for what is sometimes popuarly known in the song “legalize it”, I am calling for an informed discussion on marijuana as a commercial industry.

“Somehow I am confident that Vincentians would say, and the people across the Caribbean would say, thank God for the leadership of Comrade Ralph.”(JJ)

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