Marijuana tourism to take spotlight at CTO conference
The deputy chief executive officer of Jamaica’s first medical marijuana company, Richard Kildare, will lead a debate on the notion or reality of marijuana tourism during the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s (CTO) State of the Industry Conference (SOTIC) later this month.
The September 17-19 conference will be held in the United States Virgin Islands and apart from Kildare, presentations will also come from Dr James Hospedales, the executive director of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), and Josef Woodman, the chief executive officer and founder of Patients Beyond Borders.
Rory Johnston, a PhD student at the faculty of health sciences at Simon Fraser University in Canada, 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 minimised,” Johnston said.
The CTO said that the debate surrounding marijuana tourism has taken a sharper focus in recent months, following its legalisation for recreational use by two US 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.
The Colorado office of state planning and budgeting reported 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.
“The Caribbean has an interest in this subject, 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,” said CTO secretary general, Hugh Riley.
“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. At the end of the day we have to make decisions that are in the best interest of the people of the Caribbean,” Riley added, noting that 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 CTO said that apart from the debate on “marijuana tourism” the three-day event will also examine a number of “provocative” issues confronting the regional tourism sector.
The CTO said that SOTIC, organised 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 is being held under the theme “Realising the Vision: Positioning Caribbean Tourism for Major Change”.