By C ben-David
Although medical marijuana production is unlikely to get off the ground in St. Vincent and the Grenadines due to intense international competition from countries years ahead us, it is still necessary to respond to the false and inflammatory remarks made by Vincentian pharmacist and self-proclaimed “social commentator and political activist” Matthew Thomas.
Because Thomas is a licensed pharmacist with decades of experience, uninformed readers might be led to believe that his views are grounded in sound logic, unbiased assessment, and a good understanding of the scientific literature.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Nor do his remarks reflect the largely nuanced and measured approach taken by the heads of several of our churches which Thomas unconscionably piggybacks as his moral compass.
Unlike the church leaders, Thomas dives headlong into the recreational weed issue by disingenuously conflating it with medical marijuana. The current debate in SVG is not about the former. Indeed, the latter, if confined to export production using well established control mechanisms (such as carefully secured greenhouses), would address all his other concerns.
Likewise, using the words “alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana” in the same breath deliberately conflates two very dangerous and lethal substances that kill tens of thousands of people around the world every year with a relatively harmless one that has no deadly dosage should be beyond the pale for a trained pharmacist.
As a licensed dispenser of licit but highly addictive synthetic drugs like tramadol, OxyContin, prednisone, methotrexate, and many others that kill thousands of people around the world every year through an overdose or their hazardous side effects, his remarks, like those of his multinational drug company suppliers, are self-serving rhetoric meant to shield truly dangerous drugs from competition from traditional, natural medications given for mankind’s use and enjoyment by Almighty God.
To opine that, “the worst thing to have happened to the Caribbean black man, since the scars of slavery, is the inculcation of the marijuana culture” is to show a profound ignorance of the effects of a plant that has been safely used for over 5,000 years, having been outlawed mainly in the last 100 years because of mindless pressure from zealous and racist crusaders.
Moreover, to imply that a highly addictive, unsafe, and lethal opioid derived from the poppy plant — morphine (and, by implication, opium and heroin) — is preferable to marijuana again reveals a profound ignorance of the consequences of cannabis ingestion.
To be sure, the possible mental sequelae of marijuana use are still being researched, although most studies showing serious adverse effects have been subsequently overturned on methodological grounds. But it may well be that there are negative consequences for a growing brain and maturing personality. Accordingly, even marijuana libertarians like me would not be opposed to strict quality control regulations while limiting its use to adults over the age of 20.
But grossly exaggerating ganja’s possible mental health effects, on the one hand, while reversing its causality, on the other, is unacceptable. To be sure, persons with certain pre-existing mental conditions might be tempted to use cannabis as a medication. Some may find relief while others may experience even worse symptoms or outcomes. But normal persons using moderate amounts of marijuana — the vast majority of the 183 million users around the world — do not experience anything approached the long debunked cannabis psychosis syndrome — better known as “reefer madness,” largely and racially attributed to Mexican and Black people in America — partly because weed is not a physically addictive substance.
More important still, using Thomas’ reasoning, we should also ban truly dangerous drugs like tobacco and alcohol that yield governments, including our own, a windfall in tax dollars while killing tens of thousands of people every year, a suggestion he carefully avoids.
And while we’re at it, we should also ban many non-prescription drugs whose overuse or overdose can be lethal, including aspirin, long known to be a dangerous drug that kills 20,000 people a year in America and 3,000 a year in Great Britain while marijuana, by itself, kills not one since it is impossible to take a lethal overdose via smoking.
But Thomas’ most egregious error is to blame marijuana for murder and other crimes. Marijuana does not kill people; what kills them is the violence and lawlessness associated with its interdiction. All of these adverse criminal effects would disappear if cannabis production, distribution, and consumption were decriminalized, as occurred almost overnight when the foolish prohibition on alcohol in the United States was ended in 1933.
Thomas is free to keep pushing his legal but life-threatening drugs. But he should refrain from telling the rest of us not to make an informed and enlightened choice, based on our God-given free will, to ingest whatever we like so long as this does not interfere with the rights of others.
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