The establishment of medical marijuana in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will not eliminate the demand for the strains that are currently cultivated for the existing illegal enterprise.
That is the view of church leaders as elaborated in a statement on Wednesday.
The statement was issued by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Christian Council in conjunction with the Seventh-day Adventists, Spiritual Baptist Archdiocese and the Evangelical Association and noted several observations and concerns.
In “clarifying the issue”, the church leaders said that the Government’s recommendation intends to introduce a special strain of marijuana which it refers to as “medical marijuana”.
“While there is the view that responsible legislation will regulate the “Medical Marijuana Industry” and enable the supplanting of the current illegal enterprise, we are aware that the introduction of a ‘weak weed’ will not eliminate the demand for the strong local weed, or for the illegal enterprise,” the church leaders said.
The said that the view is that the medical marijuana industry would be heavily regulated and licenses and pharmaceutical controls implemented with the issuance of prescriptions but this does not address the impact on the current illegal trade.
“The assumption that current producers will abandon that illegal trade for a highly regulated alternative seems quite unlikely.
“While the economic benefits anticipated are expected to be great and there are health benefits anticipated, we are concerned that as a nation we do not currently have the capacity to implement the requisite institutional and structural systems to manage the potential impact on our youth and to address the possible social fallout,” the church leaders said.
They said they believe there is “cautionary value” in studying the Columbia narrative.
“In that jurisdiction, cultivation of coca and possession of up to one gram of cocaine is legal; however the struggle with the illegal enterprise has been onerous and is in many respects a losing battle,” the statement said.
“While cocaine is a by-product of coca and in some ways different from the production of marijuana or ‘medical marijuana,’ the struggle to supplant an illegal trade; government’s failed efforts at crop substitution programmes or finding effective social and economic alternatives, aerial spraying and the destruction of fields with the concomitant migration of farmers to harder-to-reach areas all have important lessons which can guide our discourse and pursuit.”
They said that the current proposal is for the introduction of ‘medical marijuana’, which can be considered a more cautious and controlled approach.
“… the concerns highlighted here and otherwise articulated should also intimate that we do not believe that ‘full legalisation’ or the introduction of ‘recreational marijuana’ is an option, if we are seriously concerned about the total wellbeing of our nation and have the interest of our youth at heart.
“The concern for the ‘criminalization of our youth’ requires mature exploration and responsible discourse and research to avoid addressing one concern by compounding another.”
The church leaders said they will continue to be engaged “in reflection on these matters, mindful of the wisdom for national policy capsulated in the phrase ‘man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’.
“Many decisions in our modern society have been advanced primarily on the premise of its economic and developmental value. This has prompted the introduction of concepts such as social impact assessment (SIA) and cost-benefit analysis (CBA). It is imperative, therefore, that we deliberately consider that quality of life is more than dollars and cents and juxtapose this discourse with issues such as crime and violence,” the church leaders said.
The church leaders acknowledged the potential medicinal benefits of marijuana.
They further said they do not dispute “the need for continuing research which can lead to accrued benefits for the citizens of St Vincent and the Grenadines and the world over living a healthier and fulfilled life”.