Letters & Opinion

Cannabis Movement Snubbed By Health Ministry?

BELOW is a letter to the Ministry of Health delivered almost one year ago and there is still no reply. This leads us to believe that the Ministry is not concerned about the welfare of our youth. Déjà vu, as we got the same treatment from the Minister of Health in the previous administration. We are being ignored again.

Although the administrations have changed, the modus operandi remains the same. We at the Cannabis Movement pride ourselves as being a responsible organization that is concerned with the negative effects of cannabis consumption on the general public. Therefore, this is one of the reasons for improving the regulatory framework which presently exists in our Misuse of Drugs Act; that is to tackle the public health issues associated with cannabis consumption.

It is simply uncontainable at this point in this administration’s term that a deadly disease such as COPD is being ignored. Since writing this letter, Dr. Lisa Charles has informed me that seven other people have died. Is this statistic not a need for concern? Not to mention all the other public health concerns associated with cannabis such as the use of cannabis by minors, the dangers of consuming edibles and the horrendous death toll and violent incidents linked to the drug trade.

The government created a cannabis commission in late March of this year to deal with these and other issues. Yet, there are Ministers within the very same administration that made a campaign promise to the people to change the laws regarding cannabis, who are trying their very best to stall any progress that is to be made by their commission.

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As interim chairman of the Cannabis Movement, I am asking the Prime Minister to take control of his Cabinet Ministers and educate them on the roles that they are supposed to play in their respective ministries, and that is to facilitate the will of the people who voted for them and not to execute their own private agenda. We have already missed the planned visit by the CARICOM Cannabis Commission in early September due to the unprofessional behaviour by one Minister, in particular, completely disregarding regional protocol.

We hope that you will do what is necessary for your cannabis commission to complete their mandate in the allotted time, Mr. Prime Minister.

Here is the letter referred to above:
November 3rd, 2016
Honourable Mary Isaac
Minister of Heath

Dear Honourable Minister,
First of all, please allow me to congratulate you on your appointment as Minister of Health on behalf of our organization. Your Ministry is one of the Ministries that will have an important role on the way forward regarding the reformation of the laws regarding cannabis. It is extremely important, though, that we pay particular attention to our vulnerable groups and make the creation and implementation of prevention and harm reduction strategies a priority. I say this as we have had to address several very real concerns from stakeholders, the prevalence of the medical condition of COPD being a major one.

At a conference earlier this year, hosted by the University of the West Indies Open Campus on the Morne, there was a question of should we legalize? Dr. Lisa Charles highlighted the fact that many of our young persons are dying from COPD. What is most disturbing is that the disease usually manifests itself in persons of fifty and older, but here in Saint Lucia, people in their late twenties and early thirties are contracting this disease. The cause of this disease in this particular case is the mixing of tobacco with cannabis when being smoked. Unfortunately, this is a very common practice among many of our youth who use cannabis on a regular basis. Many are completely unaware of the damage that they are doing to themselves.

We reached out to the former Minister of Health in an attempt to deal with this untenable situation. Unfortunately, we were completely ignored. Please consider these questions: How much money and effort has the Ministry of Health invested in educating the population on the Zika virus? How many fatalities have we had from Zika? How many fatalities have we had from COPD? (Twelve in the past two years with several persons with the disease at present waiting to die). How much public education has been invested it educating a whole generation of youth that are ignorant of the fact that they are killing themselves with this practice? It is quite clear to see where our priorities should lie.

We consider our organization a responsible one and we believe that it is not only our duty, but it is our moral obligation, to educate these vulnerable people in order to save lives. We would like to partner with the Ministry of Health in order to develop a series of public service announcements and short documentaries highlighting the dangers of this practice in an attempt to totally eradicate this deadly habit. We believe that this is just one of a series of measures that must be implemented before making the decision to legalize.

There are several other measures and recommendations that must be discussed, but at this point in time, whether we legalize or not, we must address this very dangerous situation as our young people are mixing black tobacco with cannabis regardless of the status of the law.

Should you find it necessary, I would be more than happy to sit with you and discuss this further. Thanking you in advance for your consideration on this matter.

Best regards,
Andre de Caires.
Chairman of the Cannabis Movement of Saint Lucia

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