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PM invited to international ganja conference

Published: 
Monday, August 13, 2018

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and members of his Cabinet have been invited to attend an international cannabis conference to be held in Jamaica next month, to help in their ongoing discussions on decriminalisation and possible legalisation of marijuana.

Douglas Gordon, founder of CanEx Jamaica Business Conference and Expo, extended the open invitation to T&T’s policy makers during a telephone conversation with Guardian Media.

The third annual CanEx conferences takes place in Montego Bay, Jamaica, September 27 to 29.

Keynote speakers for the event are former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, former television host in the United States, Montel Williams, and Bruce Linton, founder of Canopy Growth Corporation (CGC).

Gordon said he believes if government officials attend the conference their eyes will be opened to the medicinal and economic benefits of marijuana and the need to address the laws surrounding it.

“I had people who gave me a mouthful the first time I held this conference as to why what I was doing was anathema to good sense or being raised properly and these people have come full circle.

“These people are now huge advocates for the industry. They understand not just the power of the medicine—which is significant and that really is the main point—but they also understand the economic opportunities to be unlocked by countries that have been otherwise challenged for a very long time,” Gordon said.

“And when you put those two things together it is an incredible, not just compelling, argument that says you cannot wait any longer. I would encourage not just government ministers but also members of the medical fraternity, business people, potential investors, healthcare practitioners, cultivators, farmers, people in agriculture—a wide section of individuals—who should be looking at this industry,” he said.

Gordon said especially given the medicinal benefits of marijuana, we have a “moral obligation” to move it forward responsibly.

Williams has used medical cannabis products to effectively manage the symptoms of his multiple sclerosis (MS) since he was diagnosed with the disease in 1999.

At the height of his television career Williams experienced his first symptoms of MS—a sharp and 24-hour neuropathic pain in his feet and legs. When pharmaceuticals proved ineffective, his doctor recommended medical cannabis as part of his treatment.

Ever since, Williams has been using cannabis products as a medication to manage the debilitating symptoms of his MS.

Gordon, son of businessman Ken Gordon, said he grew up in a household, like most others here, where it was thought that marijuana was a bad thing. He has said, however, his mind has changed dramatically on the issue.

“I was raised to know marijuana was bad but as I got older and got more information (my mind changed). I understand why my parents did it; it wasn’t malicious. At the same token I understand it was based on information they did not have and that is the key now, there is no excuse for ignorance. There is too much information out there and it is not a fly-by-night information. It is empirical data from top institutions around the world and there is no reason to second-guess the research, no reason to not be informed about it,” he said.

The CanEx Jamaica Business Conference and Expo is a business-to-business conference that brings together cannabis industry professionals from 20 countries across North America, the Caribbean, Europe, and South and Central America to discuss the latest advances in the medicinal, health/wellness, legal, regulatory, business and investment landscapes.

The event features presentations, panel discussions and exhibitions from experts, policy-makers, researchers and business people, and provides a professional platform for knowledge sharing and high-level business networking.

The conference began in 2016 when Gordon said he recognised the issue of marijuana legalisation was moving quickly at a global level.

Gordon believes the Caribbean region has an important part to play in the global movement.

He said apart from the important medicinal benefits to be derived from marijuana, governments need to understand that the industry can also stimulate economic growth.

“A lot of governments are having conversations around the taxable income or taxable value and that is an absolutely important conversation but the economic impact is much more significant than that,” he said.

Gordon said while Colorado—the first state in the US was able to achieve US$150 million in taxable revenue from marijuana—more importantly 15,000 jobs were created as a result of the industry.

He said the economic impact of the industry to Colorado was calculated at US$ 2.5 billion.

“So this is not only a new opportunity in terms of taxes but it is a huge opportunity to create this whole economic ecosystem that benefits individuals as well as benefits the whole economy,”

Gordon said given the state of the global economy, now is the perfect time to act on the issue.

T&T is expected to hold its first local public consultation on the issue of the decriminalisation and possible legalisation of marijuana soon.

This was the key outcome as cannabis activists met with Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Fitzgerald Hinds for around two hours last month.

The meeting between the Government and the activists was facilitated after Rowley received a petition from Caribbean Collective for Justice (CCJ) head Nazma Muller which featured 10,000 signatures calling for the legalisation of marijuana.

Muller and her team, including criminologist Darius Figueira, CCJ director Denise Carew, Colin Stephenson, co-founder of T&T’s first incorporated marijuana law reform NGO, C420, and media personality Joshua Seemungal attended the meeting.

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