‘T&T missing out on marijuana $$’

Trinidad and To­ba­go has all but lost the ma­jor­i­ty of eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits that could have been earned from le­gal­is­ing cannabis.

Ja­maican sci­en­tist Dr Hen­ry Lowe, who has ded­i­cat­ed sev­er­al years to re­search of the med­ical ben­e­fits of the plant, has said even if Trinidad and To­ba­go le­galis­es mar­i­jua­na with­in the year, they would re­main far be­hind in the mar­ket.


In Ju­ly, At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi said leg­is­la­tion would be brought be­fore the Par­lia­ment to de­crim­i­nalise the plant in Sep­tem­ber.

Dr Lowe was a part of a pan­el that dis­cussed Mar­i­jua­na and Sus­tain­able Liveli­hoods in the Caribbean as part of the Car­ifes­ta’s Jour­ney Around My­self Sym­po­sium at the Uni­ver­si­ty of the West In­dies De­part­ment for Cre­ative Arts in St Au­gus­tine on Wednes­day.

“I want to start off by say­ing every­body is in­to grow­ing gan­ja and they tell you this is where it is and they tell you how much mon­ey can be made now but I guar­an­tee in two years’ time the grow­ing of gan­ja will be­come old stuff. The de­mand and sup­ply sys­tem of eco­nom­ics will set in and every­body will be grow­ing it,” he said to Guardian Me­dia be­fore mak­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion be­fore the pan­el.

He point­ed out that while Trinidad and To­ba­go still awaits de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of cannabis oth­er Caribbean states like Ja­maica, An­tigua, and St Kitts have al­ready tak­en steps to le­galise and em­brace the med­i­c­i­nal as­pects of the plant.

He added that with sev­er­al states with­in the Unit­ed States al­ready em­brac­ing med­i­c­i­nal mar­i­jua­na with some al­so le­gal­is­ing recre­ation­al use, the po­ten­tial mar­ket win­dow was al­so clos­ing rapid­ly.

“When they cap­ture their mar­ket you can’t go in af­ter­ward. As far as I am con­cerned it’s part of the game,” said Dr Lowe.

He, how­ev­er, felt that if Trinidad and To­ba­go and oth­er Caribbean states do have the po­ten­tial to de­vel­op in­dus­tries based on cannabis by-prod­ucts par­tic­u­lar­ly med­i­c­i­nal items.

Dr Lowe, who helped cre­ate Cana­sol, a cannabis by-prod­uct which is used to treat Glau­co­ma, is re­search­ing oth­er us­es for the plant.

Lowe is cur­rent­ly do­ing re­search for treat­ment for can­cer with spe­cial fo­cus on pan­cre­at­ic, prostate, breast and cer­vi­cal can­cer, Parkin­son’s dis­ease and di­a­betes.

“ I think we need to move with the times, every­body is mov­ing there and if we must re­mem­ber if Trinidad gets in­volved in the med­i­c­i­nal end of it, the re­search and de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion. It’s been ap­proved by the UN. The UN said you can use Cannabis for re­search and med­ical pur­pos­es, what more do you need?” said Dr Lowe who looked back at the prod­ucts de­rived from oth­er nat­ur­al re­sources grown in the Caribbean but trans­formed in­to prod­ucts mar­ket­ed in­ter­na­tion­al­ly in Eu­ro­pean and Amer­i­can mar­kets.

“We grow sug­ar cane, ba­nanas and so on, and we ex­port­ed them and oth­er peo­ple use to them to make sec­ondary and ter­tiary prod­ucts which is where the re­al mon­eti­sa­tion is. The same thing is hap­pen­ing with gan­ja,” said Dr Lowe.

The for­mer head of the eco­nom­ic ad­vi­so­ry board Dr Ter­rence Far­rell agreed it was a les­son Trinidad and To­ba­go need­ed to learn in its quest to di­ver­si­fy the econ­o­my.

Dr Far­rell said the de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion on­ly fo­cused on the im­pact on the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem rather than po­ten­tial eco­nom­ic av­enues.

 - by Peter Christopher