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 [email protected].
The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].