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A key component of Jamaica’s business community wants regional leaders to determine whether Washington would oppose efforts by the island to export locally produced marijuana to the U.S. for the medical industry when they meet with President Barack Obama in Jamaica early next month.

Both the White House and Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller announced plans for the visit this week as Obama prepares to make his second official visit to a Caribbean trade bloc member state since taking office six years ago.

In 2009, he flew to Trinidad both to meet with leaders and to attend the hemispheric Summit of Americas which Trinidad had hosted also in April of that year.

This time, he is swinging through the region ahead of this year’s April 10-11 Summit of the Americas which is slated for nearby Panama. This year’s summit would be significant for one major reason as leaders are preparing to welcome former pariah, Cuba, back into the fold after decades of U.S.-directed isolation. It is also part of the move by Washington and Havana to move to normalize relations.

A bit surprisingly, the Jamaican Manufacturers Association argued that it would make sense for Jamaica and the region to find out whether there would be any opposition to the island exporting its highly regarded marijuana varieties in the wake of increasingly global acceptance of the virtues of weed to heal a string of illnesses including glaucoma.

“I would certainly want to know what’s his position on exporting medical marijuana to the U.S. because certainly to a country like Jamaica it is a resource that we definitely could do well in,” Brian Pengelley, president of the manufacturers association told the Gleaner Newspaper this week.

Jamaica’s two-tier parliament recently amended local drug laws, creating space for a medical marijuana sector an outlawying possession of two ounces or less as a felony crime.

The manufacturers suggestion is also being supported by the umbrella private sector commission, which said that clarity on the issue and how it would affect international security would be useful before millions are invested in it and it is opposed by authorities in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Obama’s April 9th visit would be the second time in just over 30 years that a sitting U.S. president has set foot on Jamaican soil.

Ronald Reagan did so in 1982, a year before American troops, with the support of right-leaning Caribbean governments including Jamaica, had supported Regan’s decision to invade Grenada to crush a bloody cabinet rebellion that had claimed the lives of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and five other ministers.

Prime Minister Simpson-Miller said she is confident the one-day summit will be fruitful as key issues such as crime, trade and security are on the agenda.

“We are confident that the visit will be marked by fruitful dialogue and exchanges that will serve to strengthen the close relations that exist at the bilateral level between Jamaica and the USA and between the USA and CARICOM,” she said.

Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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