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U.S. Takes a New Course on Cuban Relations

Two Cubans walk by a large sign that says "CUBA" as the U.S. tries to improve relations with Cuba.
Photo Flippinyank

Economics

U.S. Takes a New Course on Cuban Relations

Today President Obama made a historic declaration to improve relations with Cuba, a country diplomatically estranged from the U.S. since the onset of the Cold War more than six decades ago.

Separated from the U.S. by just 90 nautical miles, but worlds apart with respect to political beliefs, Cuba has in many ways been stuck in time and isolated from the rest of the world – continually hampering the country’s growth both economically and ideologically. And part of that stunted growth may include the country’s staunch prohibition of cannabis.

With the recent easing of cannabis prohibition sweeping the U.S. and many countries abroad, it’s likely that a less restricted Cuba – which currently has severe laws prohibiting the possession, sale or cultivating of cannabis – could see rapid economic growth if the cash crop were tolerated on its shores. Given its rich soil and tropical climate, Cubans could go from their currently described ditch weed –  known to sell for as much as $100 a gram – to a full-on economic green rush.

According to a White House fact sheet released this week from the Office of the Press Secretary, the diplomatic move is intended to “chart a new course in U.S. relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people.” The release goes on to say that “it is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba.”

The move came within the same week as the release of the American political prisoner Alan P. Gross, a former government contractor from Maryland who was detained in Havana in 2009 for delivering communications equipment to religious groups. According to the New York Times, “Cuba sentenced Mr. Gross to 15 years in prison for plotting to destroy the revolution,” stating that the distribution of satellite communications equipment in Cuba is illegal.

If Cuba is willing to go so far as to release prisoners identified as enemies of the revolution and are also open to easing decades of acrimony with the U.S., perhaps the easing of cannabis prohibition is also not so far out of reach.

While the Times reiterates that President Obama and other officials say Washington would “continue to focus strongly on human rights in Cuba,” the fact sheet uses language that signals U.S. interest in assisting Cuba with empowering the citizens of Cuba toward prosperous aims.

“We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state. With our actions today, we are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities. In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help.”

As the U.S. assists Cuba with adjusting regulations to more effectively empower the Cuban people, let’s hope the result is opportunities that lead to greater personal freedoms, like the right to benefit from an agricultural bonanza such as cannabis.

What do you think? Will the change in U.S. policy impact cannabis commerce in Cuba? Tell us in the comments below.

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