There’s an excellent article in Travel Pulse today entitled Caribbean Tourism Officials Talk Marijuana Tourism. Written by Brian Major, the article takes a look at how the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) may capitalize on marijuana tourism.
The article cites the growing legalization of pot here in U.S., and the fact that several Caribbean islands, like Jamaica, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and Trinidad & Tobago, are considering decriminalizing weed in the future.
As Major points out, it’s no secret that people are cruising to Jamaica to smoke ganja. My observation is that the cruise lines know it and make an effort to profit from it. Why shouldn’t the islands profit as well?
For passengers cruising to Falmouth, Royal Caribbean offers the "Bob Marley Experience" up to the village of Nine Miles. Carnival offers an identical tour in their "Zion Bus" to the reggae king’s birthplace. These cruise lines may say that they have a "zero tolerance" policy for pot on the ship, but they don’t seem to care that their guests get high in the hills, at least not when the cruise line collects $100 a person for the excursion.
Jamaica would be smart to decriminalize the weed, tax it, profit from it, and involve its citizens in a growing and finally legal industry. It would be one of Jamaica’s few sustainable industries.
But other island destinations seem to be heading the other direction. I have written many articles about the customs police in Nassau boarding cruise ships in port without probable cause or a search warrant and searching passenger cabins and even safes for pot when the passengers are ashore. The local magistrates will then shake down the passenger for a $1,000 or so, threatening a jail sentence of a month or two in Her Majesty’s prison if the fine is not immediately paid. Meanwhile dealers are offering to sell pot to tourists up and down Bay Street.
The revenue collected by these type of arrests is a drop in the bucket compared to the money which can be generated by legalized marijuana sales catering to the tourists. Plus the islands can avoid the bad publicity and consequences associated with burdening police resources to target and arrest tourists for non-violent misdemeanors while being unable to stop violent, armed robberies and murders in the ports of call which frighten tourists away.
I think we are going to see trends developing in the next decade between those cruise destinations in the Caribbean which embrace or reject pot. Certain places which view marijuana in practical terms as a source of substantial business will benefit. On the other hand, those ports which view weed in emotional or religious terms, as a product of the devil, will lose visitors and revenue.
All of these Caribbean destinations have high crime rates. St. Thomas USVI which hosted the CTO “State of the Industry” conference mentioned in the Travel Pulse article has an incredibly high murder rate of over 50 per 100,000. Jamaica’s homicide rate is 39 per 100,000 and the Bahamas is 30 per 100,000. (The U.S. murder rate is 5 per 100,000 and Canada is only 2 per 100,000)
Its time to get the marijuana out of the hands of the gangs and into Caribbean owned and operated business that can be taxed and the money invested into the port islands.
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Photo: Top – Falmouth, Jamaica by Jim Walker