To visit Jamaica is to be arrested by the contrast between the lifestyle of the majority of the populace and that of the relatively affluent. Scattered about the island’s perimeter are cramped collections of ramshackle shacks, tiny and tin-roofed, perched on the shore in the shadow of McMansions sparsely dotting the hillsides.

In short: Jamaica is a place where opportunity is a scarce commodity.

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But there is cause for great economic hope. Hope in the island’s most celebrated plant, in underemployed laborers willing to grow and process it, in the vacant land ripe for cultivation. Even in wasted cannabis material (stalks, leaves). The herb is legendary in Jamaica and about to become moreso, now that the island nation has become, after nearly a century of prohibition, the first in the Caribbean to decriminalize cannabis.

The law even allows tourists with medical recommendation from their home country to purchase up to two ounces of herb for consumption in Jamaica. Now a year later, the country is openly considering legalization (along with replacing the Queen with a president as head of state).

Thanks in large part to Rastafarians, who use the herb as a religious sacrament, perhaps no country on earth is more identified with cannabis than Jamaica. It’s fitting, then, that lifting the country out of poverty depends equally on it and its towering, non-psychoactive alter ego, hemp. The hemp variety of the plant produces the world’s strongest natural fiber plus seeds bursting with energy and nutrients — and economic potential.

What’s so hip about hemp

  • Agricultural: HEMP is the crop of the future! Sugar cane is in global decline. Transitioning from poverty to prosperity begins with investing in the future. The crop is more quickly renewable and sustainable than most other cash crops
  • Diet: Hemp is a non-psychoactive vegetable that can also be used to make oil and functional foods. Its seeds contains both complete protein and the ideal ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Public Health: CBD (cannabidiol) is a molecule with an astonishing range of medical applications. For example, studies show reversal of diabetes with enhanced CBD. And our lives are enriched by all the inspiring tales of children rescued from life-destroying epileptic seizures by CBD and cannabis oil. Raw cannabis leaf juice is a terrific neuroprotectant superfood that is also strongly effective at reducing systemic inflammation, the root cause of most disease.
  • Construction: People can produce hempcrete (a product superior in many ways to ordinary concrete) locally, using natural resources to become self-sufficient.
  • Textile: Hemp can be used to make clothing, rope, almost any textile imaginable.
  • Whatever: Hemp can be used to make an estimated 50,000 products, from paint and motor fuels to skin lotions, ink, even cars. (If you just got a mental image of Cheech & Chong’s ice-cream truck in Nice Dreams, congratulations! You’re “ahead” of the game.)

Four steps to fiscal freedom

It isn’t feasible to go directly or suddenly from poverty to a thriving economy with full employment. There are a couple of key action steps in between: to create green jobs and to develop new economies. If faithfully followed, these two protocols will almost certainly lead to greater prosperity than the Jamaican people have ever known.

Poverty: the starting line

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Stage 1 is poverty. Fighting for survival. With 30 percent unemployment weighing down the national psyche, it’s little wonder that surveys show 80 percent of tertiary-school students want a one-way ticket out of Jamaica.

To break the cycle, the first priority is to identify opportunities for investors to make a significant impact. Then, with the cooperation of the Jamaican Ministry of Finance and Public Service, the goal is to craft investment-friendly regulations that will encourage investors and entrepreneurs to plow money into the country. This plan, along with ensuring fair treatment of low-wage workers, will help more Jamaicans to begin to build wealth.

Create green jobs

Stage 2 of the plan is to establish industries that can sustain themselves. This will be done by monetizing the enormous assets of the nation: its hard-working people and their culture, acres of vacant land, famously rich soil, and balmy, tropical climate foremost among them.

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Utilizing the country’s own assets will lead to increased exports and reduce Jamaica’s dependence on foreign commodities. Tax revenues will be partly reinvested into centers created to develop intellectual property and innovations. These improvements will chip away at Jamaica’s $3 billion annual trade imbalance.

Encourage new economies

Stage 3 will be an accelerated growth phase, upshifting from survival mode to success mode. Helping new economies flourish will create fresh marketplaces within the nation and encourage entrepreneurial creativity. This will be a time for turning the intellectual property that is developed at the innovation centers into steady cash flow.

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Development should focus on energy, food, medical and recreational tourism, and the arts. Fostering partnerships between private and public entities, while continually adding new ones to the pipeline, will help to sustain the growth.

Prosperity: the finish line

In the final stage, Jamaica shifts into high gear from success mode to surge mode. The nation becomes a financial center for foreign industries. Add the economic growth from that to the taxes collected from the many growing new industries, and Jamaica will be in trade surplus within 20 years instead of deficit.

It’s supremely satisfying that the national debt can be reduced or even eliminated thanks to the “international” herb.

RELATED: As Jamaicans embrace legal cannabis, many will seek a way to consume it without smoking. All smoking is now illegal indoors throughout the country — even outside under a roof is considered indoors. No worries: The MagicalButter Botanical Extractor is the world’s first countertop automatic appliance for transforming cannabis into edibles. For info on how to get your own today, plus dozens of mouth-watering recipes and quick how-to videos, check out MagicalButter.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Garyn Angel is an inventor, entrepreneur, award-winning financial consultant, and CEO of MagicalButter.com, which manufactures the appliance he invented for converting cannabis to edible form. Angel is committed to cannabis law reform and was named to the CNBC NEXT List of global business leaders for his work on legal marijuana. He is also founder of the Cheers to Goodness Foundation, a charity that helps “medical refugees” — veterans and children who need cannabis therapy when traditional treatment options have failed. Angel’s charity helps families relocate to states where cannabis medicine is legally accessible.

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Do you believe Jamaica should legalize cannabis, or keep it the way it is? Tell us in the comments section below!