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The Battle for Cannabis Legalization Is On in Honduras

Salvador Nasralla was locally called El señor de la televisionThe legalization of cannabis could create 17,000 additional jobs in Honduras, and would help address the persistently high unemployment rate in this country.

Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and El Salvador are the borders of Honduras. The country’s history has been frequently defined by the bloody and terrible conquests on its soil that have included the eradication of the local Maya by the first invaders (the Spanish). Honduras also became one of the locations of the United and Standard Fruit companies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, giving rise to the writer O. Henry’s infamous description of the country as a “banana republic.” American troops have invaded the country multiple times including during the 1980’s during the war between El Salvador and Nicaragua.

It is ironic, therefore, that the cannabis reform proposed to aid the majority agricultural population might not be supported by any of those in the administration of either the president, the left-leaning Xiomara Cruz, or Manuel Zelaya. Castro was installed as the new president of Cuba on January 27, 2022. This is the same job Zelaya had between 2006 and 2009.

But, this is still the fight that’s currently raging about cannabis reform.

Castro appointed Nasralla as the first vice president for the country. He is also the proponent of the current cannabis reform plan. His former CEO is Pepsi Honduras. Since the 1980s, he has been an outspoken critic of Honduran government officials. He cites corruption as the reason Honduras’ current economic situation is so dire.

His cannabis proposal, however, has attracted the ire of Castro’s husband, Zelaya, who recently said, “We do not support the idea of starting to plant drugs as has been proposed. The president of Honduras (his wife) has made the firm decision to combat drug trafficking and will combat its consumption,” he told local media. “If there is drug trafficking, there are drug traffickers and if there are drugs, then there are consumers, so that must be eradicated from the country.” 

Since Zelaya is also a presidential advisor, it would seem that the current cannabis reform proposal by the country’s new Veep may cause a bit of marital strife.

A “Cannabis Republic”?

The politics, as well as the motivations of those involved are what make this countertemps fascinating. 

This is a fight essentially over not only living standards but a country’s legacy. At the moment, there are 350,000 Hondurans without work. 2.4 million people are also unemployed. In a nation of almost 10 million, that is quite a percentage. Merely employing them in the cannabis industry is not necessarily the answer to the country’s problems.

This is why. Many countries in developing regions are quickly entering the marijuana industry, with similar expectations. You can see the numerous African countries that have declared they are following the same path, even if it is not Latin American. Honduras is currently behind in such endeavors and would compete with them.

But there are more important considerations. In the past, exporting bananas or other tropical fruits did little but support large non-Honduran businesses and cemented their anti-democratic control over the country for decades.

A continuation of The Status Quo?

These considerations aside, it is inside that the highest-value cannabis on the world market can be grown. Honduras will need to locate the right places and infrastructure to build indoor cannabis cultivation facilities to be able to grow competitively exported cannabis crops. This would require capital investment, which the country does not have. It would have to come from foreign companies—just like in the past. The ”united” fruit companies of yore were owned by North American investors who cared only about profits, not the welfare of the indigenous population.

For this reason alone, “cannabis reform” here may in fact spell bad news. 

Outside cultivation can also have a negative impact on the environment, which is very similar to what’s happening in Brazil. These countries share fragile and endangered rainforest environments that are quickly disappearing because of illegal drug traffickers as well as landless farmers.

Honduras, which has lost its rainforest to global warming, is now one of the most vulnerable countries in the world. Already, the frequency of natural catastrophes such as floods and mudslides in Honduras is increasing. This situation isn’t ideal for any type of commercial cultivation regardless the environment or crop.

Driving “illegal” traffickers out of the country will also take more than legalizing the cannabis trade—and there is no guarantee that the legal cannabis industry here will be any more climate-friendly.

This scenario also has a major problem. According to local sources, previous governments were involved in illegal drug trafficking, cattle ranching and illegal logging mahogany or cedar.

Is it possible for the current government to navigate the maelstrom of contradictions in the legalization debate, despite the fact that many of its leaders were anti-government corruption campaigners in the past?

Global reform is far too late for cannabis legalization. It is evident that cannabis reform isn’t a solution to the deeply rooted issues surrounding it. This is true in most countries considering legalizing it.