Responding to growing pressure from the regional medical community, rights groups, the Rastafarian Movement and aware of the situation in the US with respect to medical marijuana, Caribbean trade bloc leaders have agreed in principle to decriminalize the narcotic in the region and have even dared to suggest that the move could help reduce crime.

Concluding a two-day summit in the Eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent this week, the leaders reviewed a 10-page document experts at the Guyana-based regional headquarters had prepared for them ahead of the first of two scheduled summits for 2014 and decided to back moves to legalize medical marijuana in the 15-nation bloc of countries.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar of Trinidad whose oil and gas-rich country just north of Venezuela has been battling trans border crimes like gun smuggling and drug trafficking, however, cautioned that while the agreement was made in principle, most of the heads of government and state who attended the meeting have indicated plans for wide consultations with local populations as to how countries will move forward having taken the first step.

The document while underling the need for further research about the positives and negatives from marijuana use, did suggest that the region has an already built-in advantage with the drug given the level of cultivation in the bloc and extensive research done by Jamaican doctors and scientists about medical benefits to glaucoma and asthma patients as well as people dealing with stress.

“It is being done in other countries, it is being done with some states in the United States and it is definitely something that is worth considering for medical purposes. The next step is private use in small amounts and where does it end, where does it go? I don’t think as a responsible politician I would want to commit without getting consent from the people of Trinidad and Tobago on that issue,” the prime minister told reporters in St. Vincent.

The concept paper had said that the leaders had wanted to review the entire medical marijuana issue in a “focused and non hysterical manner” and referred to the work of Jamaican scientists who had found that Asmasol and Canasol, two ingredients from the plant, have successfully been used in treatment of various illnesses including AIDS and some forms of cancer.

“The leaders may wish therefore to explore any commercial benefit from a potential multi-billion dollar industry including research and development and also the production of medical marijuana products.”

Kamla Persad-Bissessar noted that “the research goes either way. There’s research that once you decriminalize it then the crime situations are lessened. There is research in that direction that when it is no longer on the black-market like everything else you can work into the parlor, the shop and buy and therefore the hiding and the stealing and the guns. That research says once you decriminalize it will assist in the fight against crime,” she said.