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How Honduras Can Potentially Generate 85,000 Jobs From Cannabis

The vice president has a plan.

By
This story originally appeared on El Planteo

A few weeks ago, the Vice President of Honduras, Salvador Nasralla, sparked public opinion when he announced being in favor of cannabis cultivation for economic and commercial purposes.

Manuel Chinchilla | Shutterstock

The video, recorded in selfie mode from a boat, generated repercussions in the press around the world.

El Planteo exclusively interviewed the Honduran president to learn more about this project that seeks to "generate 85,000 jobs" in a country of 10 million inhabitants where more than 1 million are still unemployed.

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Legalizing it

El Planteo: But, what is this idea of legalizing the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal use in his country?

Salvador Nasralla: "What I propose is a project to generate employment and to generate dollar revenues for the country. I'm not thinking of legalizing marijuana, nor the medicinal part. I have two simple objectives: to generate employment, because -for example- 5,000 hectares (~12355 acres) generate 85,000 jobs and we have a deficit of half a million jobs. Apart from that, it is a billion-dollar business, because those countries that are close to the equator have sun all year round, and we have excellent lighting. So, the cost of production is low, it is so low that producing a gram costs 15 cents of a dollar. Meanwhile producing the same gram in Europe or the United States costs above $1. The difference is 7 times what it costs here, thanks to the fact that we have 13 hours of sunlight. Sunlight drops to 11 hours, and that's it, unlike in other countries with a temperate climate, that do not have this advantage. So the production costs are low," Nasrallah explained. "These are the fundaments of the proposal: I do not pretend the product is to be consumed in Honduras, rather, produced in nurseries or controlled production farms, protected for export. In no case, the product stays in Honduras, it is grown and processed in the same factories if needed."

EP: Are you already working on a project to do this?

I am the first vice president, but for the president [cannabis] is not a proper policy. So I'm going to talk about the project so that it's known because I'm sure that in a couple of years there will be countries very close to us like Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala - which have already started with these projects - that are going to have significant profits and will generate jobs. If so, we will find ourselves at a great disadvantage for not having considered this project before, which is part of the solution that Honduras needs. Many companies can generate 200 or 500 jobs and that is a lot, in 5,000 hectares -that could be 10,000 because we have a lot of lands that are not used properly, we can generate a significant amount of jobs.

EP: How would the State intervene in this case?

There are two possibilities: if the state wants to earn money or if the state simply wants to lend its land. I have been contacted by people from other countries who are willing to invest all the money so that Honduras does not spend anything. Everything would be controlled by foreign companies, including the necessary workforce for security, to prevent the product from being consumed in Honduras or from leaving the factories, they have to be well-guarded factories, at a very low cost of 15 cents the custody of the product is included. The product can be exported raw, like dried flowers or it can be processed and converted into oil, ointments, and different medicinal forms, I would not aspire to the consumption of the product in Honduras, because we would need to convince a lot of people who have prejudices about it [cannabis].

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The Lord of TV

With Palestinian origins, Salvador Alejandro César Nasralla Salumn is, since January 27, 2022, the first presidential appointee of the Republic of Honduras.

In his country, he is one of the most famous people since he has been in the media for more than 40 years. His programs 5 Deportivo and X-0 da Dinero earned him the nickname "The Lord of Television".

His foray into politics began in 2011, as a presidential candidate in the 2013 elections for the Anti-Corruption Party (PAC), co-founded by him.

He was the presidential candidate of the party Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship made up of the Freedom and Refoundation Party (Libre) and the Innovation and Unity Party (PINU-SD) in 2017.

In 2021 he founded the Salvador Party of Honduras (PSH) and was a presidential candidate for the National Opposition Union of Honduras (UNOH) made up of that party and the PINU but in October of that year, he resigned and agreed to be the candidate for the first presidential designee for the party Libre, which led Xiomara Castro, current president of Honduras, as a candidate.

"Most of the people who follow me are relatively young people under 40 years old, people over 40 years old are probably the majority nucleus that does not agree with this cannabis thing, but in many cases, they do not agree. I agree because they don't have the knowledge to understand what I'm saying," Nasralla told El Planteo.

The vice president insists: "I am not looking for the product to be sold in Honduras" and considers that "the distribution and consumption of cannabis in Honduras, in any of its forms, must continue to be punished, all I want is controlled places in our land to produce it and if they want to turn it into a medicinal product here, well, it is done, but in no case does the product have to enter the country".

EP: Is there a lot of prejudice regarding the use of cannabis in Honduras?

Yes, because the country is coming out at this moment [from being] a country of a band of drug traffickers, because the former president, who has just been extradited to the United States, was the head of cocaine trafficking, a more potent substance, which compared to the consumption of marijuana is not so important.

EP: How will you convince the majority of the Honduran population that believes your proposal is to "grow and sell drugs"?

Cannabis used for medicines does not have the number of hallucinogens that raw marijuana has, but people think it is a drug, people who have needed it and have used it for chemotherapy or to relieve pain, different types of pain, consider it a blessing but most people, because they have not had information about it, keep it as a taboo matter. So you don't know about its uses. I have talked with people who are involved in this business, who came to the business because they started using cannabis during chemotherapy, and saved their lives. But countries like ours are quite conservative and are impacted by drug trafficking, the tons of cocaine that pass through Honduras monthly, continue to pass through and will surely continue to pass through, because the market that needs it is still there. The same thing happens with marijuana, in Europe, and in the United States, millions and millions of inhabitants consume it, in its natural state and, of course, in its medicinal state.

EP: In order for your proposal to become a reality and stop being a good idea, what are the steps that must be taken to legalize the cultivation of cannabis for this purpose?

If there is no political will from regulators, the one who makes the decisions, the project will not be carried out. It will remain a good idea and nothing more. But it is important and our people -mostly the people who are in trouble because in Honduras it is very difficult to find work, there is tremendous hunger- people need to eat, they do not have access to education, they do not have access to medicine, we are in that aspect in the human quality index one of the 3 worst countries in America, perhaps the worst only compared to Haiti. So I think that this position in the quality of life index that we have should make us reflect to analyze the numbers because the issue here is that the numbers favor Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, and Honduras, just as Colombia does, to produce it.

EP: A project which it intends to generate more than 85,000 jobs, should have unanimous support, despite the fact that it is about growing cannabis.

Whenever they interview me and ask me if I want to legalize cannabis, I say I don't want to legalize cannabis, I don't want Honduras to consume it or distribute it locally. Honduras has to use its land to have economic benefits and generate jobs, which is the greatest need that the country has today. We have a million people who are unemployed, so any help, because we are not going to eliminate unemployment with a company of 200 jobs and another of 100 jobs, practically the entire country must be put to work.

EP: Isn't hemp an option for Honduras as well?

Also, of course, hemp is from the same family. So, if medicinal cannabis production is not achieved, we need to analyze if hemp has as much international demand as medicinal cannabis has. It can be seen, as practically the same plant and can be taken into account. We have to conduct a study and see which of the products adapt to our idiosyncrasy to get out of underdevelopment because it is estimated that Colombia will have profits of $ 5 billion in 2025. These are super important figures for a single sector, on top of job creation.

EP: Is the lack of jobs the main reason behind people migrating from Honduras?

We have 2 million people living abroad, of the 9 million inhabitants, there are 2 million who live between the United States and Spain and they have left because there are no jobs here. If there is a job opportunity that pays well and also allows the country to earn foreign currency, of course, this is not going to be well accepted by the international organizations that lend money, normally the international organizations that lend money want to have someone to lend money to.

EP: What is the unemployment rate in Honduras?

There are jobs disguised, people who take their little things out of the house and go to sell them on the street or who go and buy 3 or 4 things in a distributor to sell these at a higher price to make 4 dollars a day. They live with 4 dollars and put their son and daughter to work or in many cases, they even turn to prostitution. Official data does not correspond to reality, but the official data says that there are 350,000 total unemployed people and another 350,000 people who have informal employment. I sincerely doubt those data. I think we have at least a million unemployed people.

EP: How do those people who do not generate any type of income obtain a plate of food?

You always eat because there is someone who brings something to eat to the house. So they eat a banana, a coconut, a fruit that they pick up somewhere, something that they give away, and, above all, the fact that more than 25 million dollars a day enter Honduras through remittances, that is, dollars that Hondurans abroad send, because there are more than 1,800,000 Hondurans in the United States, although official statistics say there are only 1 million. There is a million official and there are 800,000 who are illegal and have left in the last 10 years. These people send a total of at least 25 million dollars a day and with that money they eat, they buy little things not to live well but to be able to spend their lives without access to medicine, without access to education. At least they eat and get a roof over your head to share.

In other words, dependence on what is generated in the United States is fundamental.

That quality of life that exists in Honduras if we didn't have the people who live in the United States, the Hondurans who escaped and who send those dollars, we would practically have an economy of 0 because what is produced locally has decreased. Investment has fallen in recent years to a fifth, both in national and international investment. In other words, the country is economically very depressed, so a strong boost is needed and we are working on this with the new government to create legal certainty that gives investors the confidence to invest here. That confidence they had before, 20 or 30 years ago.

Watch the full interview in Spanish with the Vice President of Honduras by clicking here.