The Caribbean’s tourism development agency is exploring the notion of marijuana tourism.
As the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) prepares to discuss issues related to the subject as part of a broader discussion on medical, health and wellness tourism at next week’s State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC) in the United States Virgin Islands, secretary general Hugh Riley has made it clear that officials had to face the issue and not hide their heads in the sand.
“The Caribbean has an interest in attracting visitors to our shores and so medical tourism, including the discussion about marijuana, is going to be one of the parts of the debate that we have. One of the interesting aspects of that particular debate is looking at the medical evidence because it’s important that we do not look at one particular aspect,” he said ahead of the September 17-19 conference which has as its theme: Realizing the Vision: Positioning Caribbean Tourism For Major Change.
“At the end of the day we have to make decisions that are in the best interest of the people of the Caribbean.”
The debate surrounding marijuana tourism has taken a sharper focus in recent months following its legalization for recreational use by two American states, including Colorado. Uruguay has also become the first country in the world to make it legal to grow, sell and consume cannabis.
Since it became legal to smoke marijuana in Colorado at the start of the year, there have been several reports of a boom in arrivals from both within and outside the United States, with the Colorado office of state planning and budgeting reporting US$19 million in tax revenue from recreational marijuana during the first half of the year, although it didn’t say how much of that was from tourism versus local buyers.
Riley said now is an opportune time to have a debate on the issue.
“We can pretend it doesn’t exist and the rest of the world isn’t talking about it or we can deal with it head on, debate it, look at the facts and then move on to the next action,” he said.
The discussion at the SOTIC will be led by Richard Kildare, the deputy CEO of Jamaica’s first medical ganja company, MediCanja, and will include presentations by Dr James Hospedales, the executive director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), and Josef Woodman, the CEO and founder of Patients Beyond Borders.
Also on the panel is Rory Johnston, a PhD student at the faculty of health sciences at Simon Fraser University in Canada, who will present on the ethical and legal implications, as well as the risks associated with medical tourism.
“This presentation will provide an overview of the key challenges that medical tourism poses to the operation of equitable health systems – those that are accessible to local populations and responsive to their needs. Examples will be drawn from both established medical tourism destinations and projects being pursued in the Caribbean to explore how negative health equity impacts can emerge and ways in which they might be anticipated and minimized,” he explained.
The SOTIC, organized in collaboration with the USVI Department of Tourism, will bring together speakers of international and regional acclaim from various fields linked to tourism to provide best case practices and winning strategies on a wide range of issues that impact the region’s primary money earner. It will be held at the Marriott Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star Resort in St Thomas.