An alternative wellness and health approach
The first productions of cannabis cultivation projects in Curaçao – for the establishment of medicinal cannabis use and export – are expected to start by the end of 2020. In this integrated wellness and health approach, alternative healthcare, including medicine based on herbs and other natural resources, will get special attention.
Curaçao’s Minister of Health, Nature & Environment, Mrs. Susanne Camelia-Römer is leading this challenging legal reform project that has significant potential to create significant economic benefits for the island.
Why Curaçao is a prime location for these projects
In 2018, Curaçaoan government officials were approached by foreign investors who wanted to know the government’s stance on the local cultivation of medicinal cannabis. Based on this request, the cabinet of the ministry of health launched an extensive feasibility study to assess the economic prospects of this cultivation vis-à-vis export possibilities. According to Mr. Alvin Daal, director of this cabinet, the first exploration showed that Curaçao enjoys several advantages in this arena.
The island’s medicine laws, for instance, are properly structured, which creates an adequate legal framework for this endeavor. This concerns not only the laws that govern the medical system, but also our reliable banking legislation. Furthermore, Curaçao has the perfect climate for this project, with enough sunshine for over 12 hours a day. Another advantage is that the island is located outside the hurricane belt. While it is true that other islands in the Caribbean have this advantage too, their legal frameworks are not as suitable as that of Curaçao. And, of course, being part of the Dutch Kingdom is also a major selling point for Curaçao as the Netherlands is known for tolerating both medical and recreational cannabis use.
The majority of the companies that expressed interest in starting cannabis production in Curaçao gave these arguments as the most important reasons for their interest.
Minister Camelia-Römer is cautiously optimistic
Minister Camelia-Römer explains that the government will not impose limitations on the number of permits that can be granted. “As long as there is land available, the permits can be obtained. At the moment there are enough possibilities”. According to an economic impact study of the Ministry of Economic Development, this sector can create between 700 and 1.000 jobs in cultivation and processing. The Minister is a bit cautious about these figures, but even if the outcome is lower than projected, the impact will be significant. This industry is also likely to have a snowball effect on the development of Curaçao’s agriculture.
“The skills of modern farming technology that this project will create can also be used for the development of greenhouses for profitable local cultivation of crops that are currently being imported,” says the minister.
The ins and outs of this industry for Curaçao
The cultivation and production will take place in hygienic and safe environments, as is mandatory for the production of medicine. Besides the cultivation of the crop, medical cannabis production also includes extracting the oil, processing, packaging, storing, etc. The companies are forced to train the local staff to meet the high standards of the WHO, as they will not get permits to hire workers from abroad.
The new companies can produce the final product locally, but they can also sell the semi-finished product. Though the export of final products is preferrable, the profit that can be made on the export of semifinal products and oils is also quite substantial.
The first jobs will take off in the preparation phase as the projects will need people to prepare the land. But the companies must not wait until the greenhouses are ready to begin training their personnel. These projects will require many skilled workers and most will work on a contractual basis. Due to the character of the business, it will not be wise to work with temporary workers.
From the viewpoint of the investor, Curaçao is attractive for its adequate climate, its location outside of the hurricane belt, political stability, and logistics possibilities. There is also access to a skilled workforce that can be upgraded to work in this industry. The cannabis projects will make use of technology-driven agriculture – every plant will have a bar code. Aside from the impact on technology and direct employment, the cannabis industry will also create employment in transportation logistics.
An increase is thus expected in job positions in shipping and handling. As the production of the medicine takes place locally, this can benefit the local pharmacies as the medicine is registered and available in Curaçao. Persons who live in countries where the sale of medicinal cannabis is not yet regulated can come to Curaçao to buy it. If their disease is chronic, such as epilepsy, they can even consider relocating to the island.