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.