The Urban Dictionary defines “ganjanomics” as the economic study of the arcane market for the demand and supply of marijuana. I would like to take this definition a bit further and define “ganjanomics” as the quantitative and qualitative study of the economics potential of the herb genus cannabis. At a parliamentary sitting in May 2018, Independent Senator and former Senior Lecturer in Economics at UWI St. Augustine, Dr. Daneshwar Mahabir made a case for the decriminalization of marijuana in Trinidad and Tobago and stated that the government should allow patients to use of medicinal marijuana as a means of earning revenue in the drive to help to diversify the economy. Dr. Mahabir went on to point to the fact that five Canadian firms involved in the medicinal marijuana had a market capitalization of Can $15 billion or TT$80 billions. More significantly he noted that these firms got there “seed” capital from the Caribbean but if they were conducting their operations here they would be “cutting a jail”.
Let me declare upfront that I do not have any desire to experience the pleasure of the joint but it think it is high time that we follow our Caribbean counterparts in Jamaica and St. Vincent in moving to decriminalize marijuana and open the way for the unlocking the full economic potential of an industry that has long operated as a hidden, underground sector. I am also reliably informed that the new Barbados government has signalled that it intends to pursue a path to decriminalization. I am not sure what direction they might take but recreational use might be a good value added to their tourism sector. Grand View Research in its 2017 report notes that the global medical marijuana market size was valued at USD 11.4 billion in 2015 and is projected to grow with a CAGR of 17.1% during the period 2018 - 2015. They note that the market is experiencing growth due to rising awareness regarding various medical applications such as pain management, appetite enhancement, and reducing eye pressure. While states in the US such as a Washington, Colorado and the Emerald Triangle in California is not considered the marijuana capital of the world by moving up the value chain we in the region is still stuck in the primary level of cultivation.
When we look at the global development of the cannabis industry we once see the classic case of history repeating itself in that the developed north have taken advantage our knowledge and resource and repackaged it using base level R&D to create a multi-billion dollar sector, while we are still struggling at the primary level of production and caught in a perpetual concentric psycho-cultural debate in a vortex of inaction. Caribbean countries, and more so Trinidad and Tobago, are in a strategically advantageous position to take advantage of the expected growth but inertia, indecision and serious lack of political will is the Albatross around our necks. Moreover, this inertia and lack of will seems to be rooted in a mindset that has been fed by the conservative media especially from North America that have in some cases falsely portrayed marijuana as wholly evil and negative, in spite of the myriad of evidence to the contrary. Of course these are the very same people who have stood silent or turned a blind eye to the decades of misinformation from the tobacco industry. It is now up to us to rise above the cloud of misinformation and stigma to take a dispassionate look at the true potential of this wonder herb before the window of opportunity closes.
In closing, I would like to reference an article by Gerald Williams published in the Jamaican Observer in December 2013 where he wrote that in an article published in the South African Journal of Science, it was noted that scientist, who was prompted by references to cannabis in his writings undertook chemical analysis and concluded that “pipes dug up from the garden of Shakespeare's home in Stratford-upon-Avon contained traces of cannabis”. Just saying, a horse might not be the only thing he might have been willing to trade his kingdom for.