Cannabis: a Medium to Economic Growth by Overcoming Poverty?

If poverty is a disease that infects the entire community in the form of unemployment and violence, failing schools, and broken homes, then we can’t just treat those symptoms in isolation. We have to heal that entire community

– Barack Obama.

With an estimated world population of more than 7.7 billion people, more than 700 million people, or 10 percent of the world population, still live in extreme poverty today, struggling to fulfill the most basic needs like health, education, and access to water and sanitation, to name a few.

Poverty entails more than the lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, unemployment, social discrimination, and exclusion, as well as the lack of participation in decision-making.

With the ever-evolving world, in 2015, the World Bank increased the global poverty line from $1.25 to $1.90 to reflect the changes in the cost of living. It has set a goal to reduce poverty by less than 3% by the year 2030.

Similarly, the United Nations has also set a goal to eradicate extreme poverty, reduce inequalities and provide better work opportunities by the year 2030. In 2015, the UN adopted Agenda 2030: The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The 17 SDGs are discussed in detail here and following that we will publish a series of articles on a deeper understanding of how legalizing/regulating cannabis especially with the focus on industrial cannabis could be a medium to achieve some of the SDGs through “Sustainable Cannabis Policy Toolkit 2021”.

The present article discusses (Goal 1): no poverty; (Goal 8): decent work and economic growth; and (Goal 10) reduced inequalities; of course with relation to cannabis being a medium to achieve them.

Let us briefly walk through how researcher Kenzi Riboulet-Zemmouli justified achieving a few of the SGDs with Cannabis.

Can Cannabis Be a Medium in Eradicating Poverty, Reduce Inequalities and Provide Decent Work Conditions Along With Economic Growth?

The Sustainable Development Goals are interconnected with each other. As quoted by Obama, if poverty is a disease, it is in the form of unemployment and violence. It creates a gap between the rich and poor, increasing inequalities and furthering crime.

It is important to ensure the social protection of people, provide them decent work conditions, economic growth, equality of opportunities, fundamental human rights, the right to dignity, and a decent life.

Kenzi has very well put recommendations in the form of policy reforms, regulatory compliances, healthcare strategies, and certain guidelines for SGDs that can be put in action for Cannabis and achieve the goals.

Continuing to Criminalize Cannabis-related Activities Fosters Poverty

The use of Cannabis by humans has been found in history since time immemorial. In a few countries, it is fully prohibited and unregulated whereas in other few policy reforms have been implemented. It is the need of the hour to systematize alternatives to prison in case of petty cannabis and other related offenses, to avoid the side-effect of worsening the economic and living conditions of the offender’s family.

Insecurity of Illegal Labor

People working in Cannabis-related jobs in the informal economy are at increased risk of potential insecurity in seven key areas identified by the International Labor Organization such as employment, earnings, hours, occupational safety and health, social security coverage, training, representation, and other fundamental principles & rights at work. Policies should be implemented and monitor the compliance of legally regulated operations with labor rights of the above-mentioned seven key areas.

Legal Cannabis to Tackle Depopulation, Encourage Women and Youth and People With Disabilities

Cannabis programs in remote areas and villages could encourage people to settle and engage in long-term jobs, empower women and youth, and give an economic boom to rural development.

A Legal Market for Fair Trade & Ethics

Policy reforms must include fair trade components, and reduce middlemen, and implement a reasonable redistribution of profits along with the production chain to end poverty among small-scale and traditional Cannabis farmers.

Recognition and Protection of Traditional Areas of Cultivation, Knowledge, and Genetics

The international legal protections for traditional medicine, knowledge and cultural expressions must apply to legacy Cannabis growers’ communities. Collective protections should be established in terms of Intellectual Property and preservation of natural and genetic resources of Cannabis to ensure fair economic opportunities.

Right to Seeds

The UN’s General Assembly declared that Peasants and other people working in the rural areas have the right to seeds – The right to protection of traditional knowledge, equitably participate in sharing benefits, the right to participate in matters for conservation, and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. States shall ensure that all policies related to seeds shall take into account the rights, needs, and realities of peasants and other people working in rural areas.

Monitoring Racism and Discriminations in Cannabis Policies

The majority accused or convicted for Cannabis-related offenses are part of ethnic minorities, migrants, foreign nationals, asylum seekers or people with irregular situations, indigenous and native populations, LGTBQI+ people, socially marginalized people, and the youth. Cannabis policy reforms need targeted mechanisms for these groups and need to monitor the impact that reforms have on these policies. 

Towards a Multimodal Model of regulation

Legal regulation should consider following six ways of legal access as foundational to any sound and sustainable Cannabis policy : (a) pre-existing pharmaceutical medical system; (b) pre-existing herbal or traditional medical system; (c) specific provisions allowing for self-cultivation; (d) specific provisions allowing for not-for-profit collective systems; (e) a commercial industry for adult use; and (f) pre-existing regulations for food, cosmetics, and industrial products.

India, Farmers, and Cannabis Policy Reforms for Sustainable Development Goals

Cannabis is a Medium to Economic Growth
Photo by Amit Mishra from Pexels

India is one of the biggest agrarian lands in the World. Farmers’ suicides because of issues with land, loan, and middlemen are no new concerns for the Indian land. According to the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data on accidental deaths and suicides, 10,281 farmers committed suicide in 2019.

The suicide rate in the deeply stressed farming sector accounted for 7.4 percent of the total suicides in the country, resulting in deaths of 5,957 farmers and 4,324 agricultural laborers, the NCRB said in a report containing the latest data. With the farmers’ suicide already being an epidemic, they further feared the new farm laws would make the situation worse. With the recent farmers’ protest, one could only hope for a progressive legislation which keeps the farmers as well as the government on equal terms. 

India is gradually expanding its research and policies for the scientific and industrial use of Cannabis. Industrial cannabis could be an economic boom for the country. It would open doors for farmers especially in the remote areas for new income opportunities, cannabis cultivation could bring back the migrated villagers in the hope of a long-term work opportunity.

Also legal reform would reduce the involvement of low-income groups in the illicit market and earn a living rightfully. Once cannabis policies have been implemented, there would be lesser petty crimes that would directly help the minorities and the low-income groups who are involved in illicit trade.

India has been home to many indigenous communities, communities that have been using cannabis for ages. The use of cannabis by communities can be taken as a sign of how traditional use of cannabis in their routine was somewhere connected with a healthier lifestyle, source of income, and in harmony with nature for sustainable living.

Such traditional knowledge of the use of cannabis should be protected to preserve the legacy of the knowledge holders. Industrial Cannabis would be a source of income for a large population; given its versatility and traditional use in textile, food, construction, medicine, livestock feed, bio-plastic, and nutritional supplements.

If implemented, cannabis policies could help the rural population of India to fight poverty; provide employment opportunities; kids would have basic necessities of life; don’t suffer malnutrition; lesser farmer suicides; and live a more fulfilling life.

Pallavi S. Maheshwari
Pallavi S. Maheshwari
Advocate working towards social upliftment and sustainable development. Here to gather knowledge and write.

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