Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has suggested that some Caribbean countries will be better off growing marijuana rather than bananas.
He said in Barbados on Monday that the intense cultivation of bananas has damaged the environment severely resulted in significant damage and loss during times of extreme weather.
Gonsalves suggested in his lecture to mark 40 years since the establishment of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus that growing marijuana would be less harmful.
“Look at it objectively and see what happens to the environment as a consequence of bananas,” Gonsalves said.
“People talk about ganja. Ganja is no way as destructive as bananas,” he said.
He said that in St. Vincent, St. Lucia and Dominica, in the heyday of the market preferences for Windward Island bananas in the United Kingdom, farmers cultivated bananas in substantial quantities above the 1,000-foot contour and in the adjacent valleys.
Gonsalves said this had resulted in deforestation and erosion of the hills and valleys.
“Of course, ganja’s with that problem too, but it as been going on or nearly 50 years with bananas,” he told listeners.
“So that when the rains come and you have flooding, the land gets washed away into the river, trees themselves get dug up and it block up the river, they destroy homes, and they kill people,” Gonsalves said.
Although illegal, marijuana is widely cultivated across St. Vincent and the Grenadines and is believed to be a major contributor to the underground economy nationally and especially in the communities where it is grown.
Gonsalves has called for a regional conversation on the decriminalisation of marijuana for medicinal purposes.