BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday July 29, 2016 – As the region flirts with the idea of making the sale of ganja legal, it’s worth considering some of the unexpected issues we might encounter along the way. And the real-life experiences of some American states can be our guide.
Right at the start, there are degrees of legalization, from medical use only to personal and recreational use. Only three American states have adopted the latter stage to date. But other issues transcend these degrees of naughty.
- First, there’s dealing with the cash. Since international banks want nothing to do with proceeds from weed, they will not (cannot, according to Federal Law) accept any deposits from sales of the stuff. This has led to houses stuffed with bales of cash (it’s a predominantly cash business) and the inevitable result – robberies on a grand scale. It’s just too easy.
So selling ganja is one thing; keeping the proceeds is an entirely different one.
- Second, there’s the unlimited usage – a social issue, but one inevitably affects commercial purveyors, just as it does with alcohol abuse. People who are new and/or who overuse the drug give the business a bad name. Carelessly allowing it to fall into the hands of minors or others is an adjacent problem – like alcohol, it’s only legal for adults.
- And third, there’s taking the drug (accidentally or otherwise) with you to other countries or islands where it might not be legal. Given the various levels of legality in various places, it’s easy to fall into such a trap. Your Jamaican spliff might not be welcome in say, St. Lucia.
Of course, there are many more issues to be faced. But legal ganja was reckoned to be a US$500-billion business last year, with states raking in hundreds of millions on taxes, so the temptations remain great.
How Caribbean businesses cope with any legalization will be interesting to watch.