Editorial

The Cannabis Conundrum

MARIJUANA has indeed come a long way – there’s in fact a World Marijuana Day, officially recognized and celebrated every April 20 (as ‘4-20’). It also has a long history as a cash crop.

Naturally, there continue to be lingering concerns about the health effects of over-use, which cannot (and must not) be ignored. In addition, there’s definite need for overall national and regional education campaigns aimed at edifying people generally about the facts and myths involved.

When ‘smoking the herb’ was popularized internationally by Bob Marley and the Wailers (and other international reggae stars), the region’s semi-colonial administrations, with UK and US backing and support, passed a series of basically similar Dangerous Drugs Acts that primarily outlawed possession and use of marijuana.

The immediate result here was declaration of an official “War on Drugs’ that (in effect) turned out to be a proxy War on Rastafarians, featuring: regular clashes between police and ‘Rastas’, equally regular raids in forested areas where the illegal plant was being cultivated; young offenders being jailed for related non-violent offenses; Her Majesty’s Prison quickly becoming over-populated with young persons — and very, very few of the ‘big pushers’ ever getting arrested.

Fast-forward forty years… Today, marijuana is a household name and a worldwide product, increasingly becoming available at legally-authorized outlets across North America and Europe. The now-much-sought value-added medical product is also today increasingly being prescribed for various ailments. And there’s also the booming world trade in (cannabis) hemp industries.

Against this background, CARICOM Heads of Government recently sought and got recommendations from a specially-appointed regional commission to help (them) determine the way forward. However, the leaders have since then basically stopped short of taking a common position on any direction. But among them are those (like St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves) who insist that CARICOM should get its act together more quickly, especially as the Americans and Europeans are accelerating their acceptance of marijuana as both a medical and a business product.

But CARICOM leaders continue taking their good old slow time splitting hairs over whether marijuana is a ‘dangerous drug’ or not, while ignoring the increasingly costly human and health costs and consequences of the fact that since 1957 it was proven, beyond doubt, that smoking cigarettes (and other forms of tobacco) causes cancer.

Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda – and now Grenada — have had significant changes of mind and are now prepared to take a second look at arguments for decriminalization of the herb.

Leading Caribbean agriculturists are also recommending that in today’s world, marijuana can well replace bananas as a more environmentally-friendly and financially-lucrative Caribbean cash crop.

But most Caribbean leaders have remained dumb on the issue, resulting in local cannabis support movements pressing incumbent administrations to make their positions known.

Saint Lucia has taken all the right initial steps, including establishing an official (even though very quiet) National Cannabis Commission.

Developed nations worldwide continue accelerating the pace of conversion from arch international critics to leading global players in decriminalization for trade and recognition of the medicinal uses of marijuana.

CARICOM’s leaders, in the meantime, are still discussing its ‘pros and cons’ while our land, air and sea spaces increasingly become conduits for illegal markets harvesting countless profits in across the USA and Europe.

Clearly, it can well be said that at no time before has it been more necessary for the region’s leaders to fully appreciate the essence of what the coiners of the proverbial phrase might have meant (in relation to the still illegal ‘grass’) when advising humankind to: Make hay while the sun shines!

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