Letters & Opinion

The Case For Ganja Decriminalization

Final In a Two-Part Article By Andre de Caires

Andre de Caires
Andre de Caires

IF we say that ganja is dangerous to our lungs, and that there is the problem with psychosis, these are medical conditions, so why are we treating the problem as a criminal one as opposed to a medical one? If people are so concerned about the danger ganja poses to my health, why not send me to a medical institution rather than a jail? Do the authorities really care about the health risks?

Ganja is being consumed by between 30,000 to 50,000 citizens of Saint Lucia on a daily basis. Are we saying that we have 50,000 criminals outside that should be in jail? And we see that society has no problem with smoking per se as we sell tobacco products with no problem at all. There are warnings on cigarette packs saying that “smoking tobacco can kill you”. In fact some Cuban cigars can cost as much as US 100.00 for one and cigar smoking is linked with prestige and success.

So we see that the problem is not smoking at all, the problem is the cannabis plant itself. I wonder why? It certainly is not because of the effects of ganja, “getting you high”, as we as Saint Lucians get “high” on alcohol at alarming rates.

And what about our basic human rights? Do we not have a choice to decide to consume whatever substance that we feel improves our quality of life especially when it has been proven to be less harmless than the legal hard drugs offered by the system? It is obvious that this is a discriminatory law. Adding insult to injury is the fact that corrupt police world wide use the law to abuse the rights of many individuals, causing death in some instances. Ganja doesn’t kill people, people are killed because of unjust ganja laws.

Our economy is experiencing rapid decline with unemployment rising at an alarming rate; goods and services are getting more expensive, crime is on the rise and our food import bill stands at a staggering $350,000,000.00 or more. All agree though that increasing agricultural production is one of the ways to create jobs and reduce the food import bill. Yet, there is no plan! None of the political parties have come up with an agricultural plan that is feasible.

The cannabis industry has the potential to be worth over EC $300,000,000.00 and thus make a substantial contribution to the country’s GDP. Foreign aid is declining and tourism which represents a trickle down economic model where money is first received at the top and then used to pay wages, simply does not reach the masses that need it the most. While monies generated from agriculture represents a filter up economic model where the masses receive the money first and then those monies enter the economic system when these masses purchase goods and services. This is a much more sustainable economic model for SIDS such as ours.

There is simply no disputing the potential that a cannabis industry has, to bring this nation out of this economic crisis by tackling the fundamental challenges being faced today. Decriminalization will assist the criminal justice system by reducing the strain on the courts with fewer people facing trial because of simple possession, by reducing the number of people entering Borderlais thus tackling the over-crowding problem, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be spent on housing and feeding these people that have committed a crime against no one, by allowing the police to focus on more serious and violent crimes and by raising the profile of the police force in the eyes of the majority of the citizens who think that the law as it exists today is not good for society. Has anyone thought about when you incarcerate someone who may be a breadwinner for a family, what happens to the dependents? This act does not only punish the person held for the offence, but has the potential to destroy families.

Decriminalizing cannabis will also allow for the creation of a hemp industry that will provide thousands of jobs in both the agricultural and manufacturing sectors as well as creating entrepreneurs in a cottage industry.

Decriminalizing will also allow us to explore the health benefits of the plant by creating the opportunity to develop medicines from the plant and to treat many ailments without fear of retribution from the police.

And finally, from a human rights perspective, it is simply unconscionable that we as a society that use sexual images and images of prestige and glamour that pander to our strongest desires and attack us where we are most vulnerable, to promote alcohol, yet we spend so much time and resources to hunt down, eradicate and eliminate both plant and person because of a racist law perpetrated against black people. Please consider the death and destruction and obnoxious, disorderly, drunken behaviour associated with alcohol consumption. Why are people who behave in that manner not considered criminals, yet people the are in possession of a few dollars worth of dried plant material considered public enemy number one?

What is even more confusing is that biodiversity preservation is one of the mandates of this government, yet species eradication is also one of its mandates? This is completely illogical and irrational to say the least. This is the year 2015. We have all the facts so this is no longer a debate. The task now is to come up with a more sensible policy as it relates to the cannabis plant.

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