The prison officer spoke of the challenges preventing prohibited items such as marijuana and cellphone from entering the prison. (Internet photo)

By Brenton Smith

The legalisation of marijuana is a very serious public policy issue, as there are economic, public and private health and criminal justice implications for our society.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is known in the Caribbean to be one of the biggest growers and exporters of this drug (plant), which, at this point, is done illegally. A number of persons have been arrested and prosecuted for possession and cultivation of this drug.

Statistics reveal that over the past five years, 2,219 persons were arrested for possession or cultivating of this drug and well over three million grammes of cannabis was seized. Some were destroyed while others remain in the custody of the police.

It is imperative to note that 454 grammes make one pound. One bomb of weed is less than a gram and has a street value of EC$2 to EC$3 and, in cases like the Grenadines, EC$5 to EC$10.

So, for example, if you are caught with one pound of cannabis, this may carry a street value of just over EC$1,000. This is why I believe so many young persons take the chance to be involved in this business.

I am aware that many Rastas and young people are in the hills of St. Vincent and the Grenadines planting the herb for various reasons and would gravitate to the discussion of freeing up the herb for medical and recreational purposes.

However, one must ask, what are the implications of legalising marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes? Is our society mature enough for these changes? What would be the checks and balance to avoid abuses?

I am no medical practitioner by any means, but I must ask, what are the implications on the mental health of persons? In November 2016, I had the opportunity to be on a panel discussion organised by the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors on the very important topic, “Free up di herb”. The trained medical practitioner outlined very serious implications on the mental health of persons who abuse the drug. It was revealed that quite a high percentage of persons who abuse the drug end up in the mental asylum. Is this the nation we want?

While some may argue that they have been smoking marijuana for years and it has very little effect on them, we must remember that every individual is different and may react differently to such drug.

We must, therefore, ask ourselves, are we truly ready for the legalisation of this drug? As a strong advocate for community policing and community safety, I believe the issue of marijuana legalisation or decriminalisation must be carefully thought out and it must involve every community.

What works in Jamaica, Colorado or any other country that legalised marijuana, whether for medical, religious or recreational purpose, may not necessarily work in SVG. This is a very complex issue which must be properly crafted and thought out with all stakeholders, especially at the community level.

I want us, however, not to be self-centred or individualistic in the quest of wanting to legalise cannabis solely for economic benefits. We must think this through critically if we are to get the best results. The police, who are accustomed to arresting persons for such, would also need to be educated on this issue because of the change.

If marijuana is legalised for recreational purposes, there can be serious confrontation between the police and citizens. For example, can you imagine a young man purposefully blowing his smoke in the faces of the officers?

I am even more scared and concern for the abused of this drug by our students. In Amsterdam, for example, students smoked on or near campus, challenged their administrators to do anything about it. As a result children would turn up stoned, or high. Coffee shops that were license to sell marijuana and near school had to be closed because students were also turning up for classes in a daze.

As we move towards this change in our society let us not use it for political or economic gains but rather take into considerations the other ills and the serious implications this could have on our society if the right mechanisms are not put in place.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to news.iwitness@gmail.com.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to news.iwitness@gmail.com.

21 replies on “Some thoughts on decriminalising weed”

  1. In my Vincy twang….. But wait didn’t the PM already assured the public he has no play what so ever to legalize Marijuana for recreational purposes????

      1. C. Ben-David says:

        There was no typo on “what so ever” which should be “whatsoever.”

        What is “twang” or did you mean “slang?”

        You have five ellipes or two more than is needed.

        “Assured” should have been “assure.”

        “Marijuana” should not have been capitalized.

        Four question marks is three too many.

        So, one typographical error plus four grammatical or other errors in two sentences, the first one an incomplete sentence thus making five.

        I assume that you are just another victim of our glorious “education revolution.”

      2. Ben exactly so….. I wasn’t educated enough by the school system….. On the other hand where you have all the education background and smarts but lacking common sense. Lololol

      3. C. Ben-David says:

        Are you old enough to know that the term “common,” as in calling someone “common,” used to be an insult in SVG?

        I don’t want anyone to think of me as being “common.” Therefore, saying I lack “common sense” is to me a terrific compliment. Thank you!

  2. Brenton Smith tell us that “Statistics reveal that over the past five years, 2,219 persons were arrested for possession or cultivating of this drug” and for such a small country as ours, that surely is quite a lot of persons, so what should be our society’s approach be to marijuana. Is the march in “Green Fever” a march to the lunatic Asylum? Kings College University London may provide us with some answers. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxrFHEpNHRA )

    In London England, Kings College University researching cannabis use and society have published a number of findings regarding the use of marijuana and society. The most salient and noticeable features of these findings is its warnings that they throw up for young people and their risk of psychosis.

    “The link between cannabis and psychosis:” Question are, “Who is most at risk of dangerous side effects from marijuana and why. There has been a recent global rise in ‘green fever’, with various jurisdictions either decriminalizing or legalizing cannabis. But alongside relaxing the rules comes concern about the health implications of cannabis use. We often hear of a link between cannabis use and psychosis. So how strong is the link, and who is at risk?” See recent article:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5651517/Does-cannabis-cause-psychosis-Scientists-discuss-risks.html

    The “UK cannabis market dominated by high-potency ‘skunk’.” One notes that, “The first comprehensive survey of cannabis strength published in the UK for almost 10 years finds that high-potency varieties made up 94% of police seizures in 2016. The study, co-authored by King’s College London researchers, highlights the potential threat posed to mental health by a market dominated by strong cannabis.”

    https://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/news/records/2018/february/uk-cannabis-market-dominated-by-high-potency-'skunk‘.aspx

    Increasing cannabis potency linked to rising admissions to drug treatment. “A new King’s College London study shows that cannabis potency may be linked to rising rates of treatment for cannabis-related problems. Cannabis now accounts for around half of all first-time admissions to specialist drug treatment worldwide – more than for heroin or cocaine – and this new study, published in Psychological Medicine, may offer some explanation for the rise.” See:

    https://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/news/records/2018/january/increasing-cannabis-potency-linked-to-rising-admissions-to-drug-treatment.aspx

    There is also to note the chemical contents of Cannabis and potential uses, the so-called Medical Cannabis. “Cannabidiol (CBD) could represent a ‘new class of treatment’ for psychosis. A constituent of cannabis could hold promise as a new class of treatment for psychosis, according to King’s College London research showing significant benefits in a clinical trial.” See:

    https://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/news/records/2017/12-December/cannabidiol-cbd-could-represent-a-'new-class-of-treatment'-for-psychosis.aspx

    In this event some ask why can’t cannabis also be used for good for mental health patients?
    “Ironically, one compound found in cannabis may actually be beneficial in treating psychosis.
    In contrast to THC, a compound called cannabidiol (CBD) may provide a buffering effect to the potentially psychosis-inducing effects of THC. This may occur in part due to its ability to partially block the same brain chemical receptor THC binds with. CBD can also inhibit the breakdown of a brain chemical called ‘anandamide,’ which makes us feel happy.

    Incidentally, anandamide is also found in chocolate and is aptly named after the Sanskrit word meaning ‘bliss’. CBD extracted from cannabis and used in isolation is well-tolerated with minimal psychoactive effects.

    In other words, it doesn’t make a person feel ‘high’. Some studies have found CBD is actually beneficial in improving the symptoms of schizophrenia.
    But one more recent study showed no difference in the effects of CBD compared to a dummy pill on symptoms of schizophrenia. Perhaps this means CBD benefits a particular biological sub-type of schizophrenia, but we’d need further study to find out.” SEE:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5651517/Does-cannabis-cause-psychosis-Scientists-discuss-risks.html

    There is indeed much discussions to be had with regard to widespread Cannabis use in our society, especially where young individuals have a ready access to its none medical use. For sure, we have already seen a gradual rise in schizophrenia in many parts of this country, no doubt brought on by young people early use of Cannabis. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPHa3fKaXWg )

    1. Isolating marijuana from other truly dangerous drugs like alcohol, tobacco, and many prescription and over-the-counter drugs unfairly and unscientifically inflates the potential negative effects of a substance that has been safely used by hundreds of millions of people for over 10,000 years.

      Using the most extreme results that apply only to a handful of cannabis users also grossly exaggerates its effects on the overwhelming number of recreational users.

      The continued criminalization of marijuana use — which all your rants against this plant clearly say you support — only enriches those who control its production and sale while unfairly punishing the vast majority of users who consume ganja in a responsible fashion harming no one, including themselves, in the process.

  3. First of all why is marijuana illegal in this country and does this reason hold merit. Marijuana is a natural plant meaning that its growth is consented by the creator which is why the christian counsel need to shut up on this subject and be more outspoken in addressing the corrupted officials in their folds. Sure marijuana can be a danger to some just like anything else found in nature but for sure its no where near as dangerous as the manmade drug that we glorify year after year called alcohol. How many road fatalies and homicidal acts does alcohol have influential responsibility for in this country and worldwide? How many young men have died from rum seizures in this country? Or we all know that person that has sugar but cant say no to rum. Lets be for real and see the hypocrisy in our legal system, the same one that was handed down to us by our enslavers. When are we as a country going to think for ourselves and determine whats best for our society free of the colonizers influence. Why do i have the choice to drink responsibly but no right to smoke responsibly. Are lungs more valuable than livers? Wake up people. The only criminal thing about marijuana should be its usage by minors just like alcohol. As for what this can mean financially. This can be a new spark for an industrial St. Vincent producing oils for medicinal purposes, cannibas based arts craft and food. And as for tourism this can be the amsterdam of the western world minus the prostitution ofcourse. I see endless posibilities if we can only break free of european ideals and be our own people for once.

  4. Brenton Smith, if anyone deliberately blows marijuana smoke or cigarette smoke or any other kind of smoke into someone else’s face, that constitutes assault. Why would a weed smoker or any other kind of smoker deliberately blow smoke into a policeman face? So stop with that foolishness. Now onto to your real issue – why legalize marijuana?

    The case for legalizing marijuana rests on two grounds. First, the cost of maintaining the criminalization is far more destructive to society than legalizing the drug. Billions are spent to police and incarcerate marijuana users. And imprisoning the users create new violent criminals once non violent offenders are placed in cellls with violent criminals. They have to learn to fight to protect themselves from prison rape. The second argument for legalising marijuana is this: if people are free to put alcohol into their bodies, a drug far more dangerous than marijuana, why should they not be permitted to blow smoke up their nostrils? Are you willing to criminalize alcohol?

  5. Its always good to respect opinions but not everything being said is correct. What I would suggest though is discussion about the issue in every community even in schools so that people can be more educated. Doing that will also give the opportunity to hear the views on the ground. I do believe that if its been legalise it would be abuse even more so we need to think seriously about the disadvantages. Money is not all of it ,the young ones especially , our future generation that what is mostly important.

  6. In my opinion, Marijuana in its natural form is not dangerous. In Europe, the most types of cannabis are chemically enhanced to produce a higher dosage of THC, so it not entirely natural. Abusive use of anything is never a good thing. Normally, if a person consumes too much marijuana they fall asleep. They do not become antisocial and prone to criminal behavior. Children should be educated, in schools and at home, about using harmful drugs and protected from dangerous drugs by law. Consenting adults should retain the right to use or not to use marijuana for recreational purposes if done responsibly. Meaning, not blowing smoke in people faces and not smoking in public places unless so designated.
    Jim Jordan makes a good argument about the cost of maintaining the criminalization being far more destructive to society than legalizing the use of marijuana for recreation. I also think that Jamal Williams’ comments are very valid. I don’t know whether James H’s arguments are entirely valid for the West Indies. C, your rebuttal doesn’t fit in this discussion.

  7. If you take note of the Netherlands findings “r” as is published in Psychological Medicine and which was referred to in the “Kings College University news” of 31/01/2018, you will notice that, “The researchers monitored high-potency, indoor grown herbal cannabis. Referred to as ‘sensimilla’ or ‘skunk’ in the UK, and ‘nederwiet’ in the Netherlands, it is the most common type of cannabis in the UK, USA and Australia.”

    Indeed, this indoor grown herbal cannabis, is the very form of Cannabis that is now being proposed by advocates of Herbal Cannabis here. This form of Cannabis always replaces what one could term the standard Cannabis, for the very reason that it carries with it a very high volume of THC. Read:

    “Changes in cannabis potency and first-time admissions to drug treatment: a 16-year study in the Netherlands”

    https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/changes-in-cannabis-potency-and-firsttime-admissions-to-drug-treatment-a-16year-study-in-the-netherlands/998695133558A106254C6291CD12FC06/share/f4da50507c99bf4bb1838630c6198358f0d93572

    You would also sadly notice that “Cannabis is used by an estimated 183 million people, and accounts for around half of all first time admissions to specialist drug treatment worldwide (UNODC, 2016)”

    Therefore, for you “r” to say that you “don’t know whether” my “arguments are entirely valid for the West Indies…” could be considered to be rather a little naïve on your path! High-potency Cannabis have been replacing standard Cannabis on the street for years and is now the Cannabis of choice worldwide. Why? Because one gets more bangs for one’s bucks!

    If however “r” you were to take note of the Kings College University study by Professor Sir Robin Murray, from the Institute of Psychiatry, as he discusses aspects of his research, including the links between smoking cannabis and developing schizophrenia, you cannot deny this noted fact, that “some persons” are indeed likely to develop schizophrenia, even by their smoking just standard Cannabis.

    ( https://www.acamh.org/event/in-conversation-psychosis/ )

    Given this known fact, that some persons are predisposed to psychosis, including schizophrenia, and our knowing that smoking standard Cannabis could cause for some, an induced schizophrenia in them, what ought a Government to do about Cannabis? Moreover what studies, that are now being conducted in the Caribbean, before their joining this “rush to green” dollars?

    Is this crazy rush to green worth the eventual human cost?

    https://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/news/records/2015/February/Skunk-like-cannabis-associated-with-24-of-new-psychosis-cases.aspx

    1. I may indeed be naive to some British scientific findings but, I see that you only make reference to mostly European studies and, you make no comparison or reference to West Indian scientific studies. The truth these day depends greatly on one’s point of view. Accurate information is not only derived by adoption the views of others but also through personal experience and interaction with people who actually have real experience with the subject. However, I think that your views should also be considered when the SVG parliament discusses the legalization of cannabis (for medical purposes).

    2. Everybody is pushing their own narrative these days. Even mainstream news has become subjective. You simply can’t ascertain the truth without thorough scrutiny.

  8. Science “r” is Science! The body of research is rather quite clear!

    But if you require anecdotal evidence of the harm this weed causes, just take a look at how many “mad” weed smokers, we now have to cope with in SVG!

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