Early next month, U.S president Barack Obama will be visiting Jamaica en-route to the 2015 Summit of the Americas to be held in Panama City, Panama. In the wake of his arrival, Brian Pengelley, president of the Jamaica Manufacturer’s Association has publicly indicated a desire to, “quiz Obama on medical marijuana” to determine if the “U.S would welcome the island’s push to export medical marijuana to the larger US market”.
However, one has to question whether this isn’t a bit premature?
Although I confess that I am not an expert in economics, it seems logical that any form of export led growth in marijuana would automatically imply the need to open up Jamaica’s domestic market in marijuana to foreign competition in exchange for market access. this means, if we push to export marijuana, then we must be prepared to consider importing marijuana from the US or any other country for that matter that we choose to do business with, as it related to the drug. The problem stands that this requires Jamaica to have a well established domestic market, which at this time is a bit premature.
Less than one month ago, February 6, 2015 to be exact, the Jamaican senate passed a bill amending the Dangerous Drugs Act to decriminalize ganja for medicinal, religious, scientific, and therapeutic purposes. Under the new Act, individuals who are found in possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana on their persons will be charged with a non-arrestable but ticketable infraction. Under the amendment, the smoking of marijuana in public spaces is still prohibited, except of course for specific places of Rastafarian worship that have been registered as such.
Is there a demand within Jamaica’s domestic market? Yes-
Do we have target consumers? Yes
Do we have a legal framework in place to accommodate commercial production- No
Despite the growing demand for medical marijuana domestically, one could argue that this demand is too limited to reap any positive gains from an import/export market. Given our economies of scale, the quid pro quo of export/import would be more ideal once a legal framework is in place that allows for the recreational use and possession of marijuana [possibly restricting recreational possession to 1ounce], restrictions on purchasing amounts per person per day, the regulated sale and use of various forms of marijuana in established public spaces, and legislation tied to cultivation and to stand laws such as driving under the influence, etc. Not only would this lay a foundation for a strong domestic market but it would also create niche markets in trade and tourism. Before we rush into thought of exportation, Jamaica needs to create and develop and responsible culture of use.