The reason I am writing this series about marijuana or cannabis
The airing of Dr. Sanja Gupta’s documentary on the medical uses of marijuana sparked international attention and raised questions in many nations about the decriminalization of the drug.  While this series is long overdue, it is still timely because I believe that discussions about the decriminalizing of marijuana must take key issues into account.
One of the key issues to my mind is this:
1. MARIJUANA IS A  POTENTIALLY TOXIC DRUG FROM A PLANT SOURCE WHICH HAS BOTH HARMFUL AND USEFUL ELEMENTS.
Like any other drug, the harmful and useful components of marijuana should be identified and tested individually to determine their chemical structure, action in the body, uses, adverse reactions and side effects, contraindications and precautions, interactions, absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion and half-life; route of administration and dosage. 
One of the major disadvantages of using marijuana derived drugs like  dronabinol is that they can be habit-forming. This is because of the toxic effects   THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is its main component (more on this later).
You may argue that many people use other forms of  bush medicine (myself included)  without requiring any of this information.  This would be a frivolous argument since marijuana has been legally classified as a controlled substance based on its effects. Furthermore, users of medicinal plants do not experience the kinds of toxic and mind altering effects that are derived from usage of  marijuana.
Changes to current legislation regarding marijuana growth, distribution and usage should not take place overnight and should carefully examine the potentially deleterious effects of this drug on the general population if its usage is decriminalized without education, guidelines or controls.
It is common knowledge that one of the main causes of admission to the Mental Hospital in St.  Vincent and the Grenadines is marijuana usage as a result of the toxic effects of THC (tetrahydrocannabinolon the brain.
Consider what would happen to our youths if they can freely access this drug. The disease patterns related to marijuana usage in St. Vincent and the Grenadines  should certainly focus on this  KEY ISSUE when discussions are being held about new marijuana legislation.  We would certainly be held accountable for the destruction of the minds of our youths on that Great Judgment Day if this is not a matter of care and concern.
A  young Vincentian barrister recently argued that marijuana should be decriminalized since cigarettes and alcohol are both harmful and are made available for  general public consumption.
I would reiterate that this is not a reasonable argument since we know that MENTAL ILLNESS is one of the key spin offs from marijuana abuse in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We cannot remake the minds of  our  precious youths once they are destroyed by the harmful components of this mind altering drug.
2. The second key concern is an ETHICAL ISSUE
In my mind, there would be cause for raising ethical concerns if this drug is decriminalized wholesale. There must certainly be a definition of the reason or reasons for doing so.  We know that the drug dealers sell this drug for its recreational effect.  Considering the toxic effects of the drug, we need to ask if  our people can be provided with other sources of  recreation which include parks, sporting facilities etc.
3.  Who would grow, market, distribute the drug?
Marijuana is currently grown “in the hills” by farmers who head off daily, their polished cutlasses/machetes gleaming  in the light. They return at dusk with no produce in their hands, so you know what crop they are growing.  I ask these questions:
  • who will be permitted to grow the drug if it is decriminalized?
  • Will people be able to smoke in public or on their jobs since it will then be considered to be equivalent to cigarettes, as my learned friend argued. Marijuana has the most awful odor.
  • Will non users be able to claim for  health damages incurred by inhaling second-hand smoke?
  • Will insurance companies make allowances for people to claim for damages incurred by smoking the leaves containing  THC?
  • Will an individual be able to pursue legal action if another person injures him/her while under the influence of  marijuana?
  • Do we have resources for blood testing for people who drive under the influence of marijuana?
  • How much marijuana in its current form (whole plant) is dangerous to the mind and body?
  • Would growers need a licence to grow and sell the drug considering that the plant contains the mind damaging THC?
  • Who will extract the useful components?  Will laboratories be erected to test the plant for new and useful components? Will we be able to collaborate with major drug companies on this issue?
  • Since the drug will be banned for export to countries where it is still illegal to use it, will our country and its citizens be placed on watch lists when travelling? Will we be subject to marijuana profiling?
  • Will St. Vincent and the Grenadines become a target for anti drug campaigns by bigger countries?
  • Will the marijuana farmers in the hills increase their turf wars as hungry drug dealers descend on our shores to buy a readily available drug?
  • Who will the drug be sold to? Will a mainstay of our economy come from the sale of drugs to wicked drug lords and pushers?
  • Will marijuana farmers be required to pay taxes or contribute to the National Insurance  Scheme?
  • How will decriminilization affect St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ committment to any regional and international conventions on illegal substances such as marijuana?
  • The lists of questions go on and on.

3. Will the decriminalizing of marijuana become a gateway for the usage of more dangerous drugs?

Some years ago, while a student at the University of the West Indies Mona, Jamaica, I attended a research symposium on marijuana that revealed that marijuana was a gateway to cocaine addiction. In other words,  the marijuana dealers were mixing cocaine with the marijuana that they sold in order to maintain their customer base and to promote sale of  another dangerous drug. That is another issue!

My recommendation is the isolation of useful components such as  CANNABIDIOL which do not have the brain destroying effects of THC

We should not hurry ahead with decriminalizing marijuana without paying careful attention to the facts and research regarding this drug.  One useful approach to be taken could be the establishment of  laboratories in collaboration with drug  companies (as in the case of Jamaica) to study potentially useful components of marijuana for medicinal usage.

Based on Dr. Gupta’s documentary, we learnt that  cannabidiol, or CBD is a component in marijuana that has useful medicinal purposes.  The extraction, processing, sale etc of  components that are non toxic to the brain could certainly be a more ethical,  useful, productive and safer way in which St. Vincent and the Grenadines should progress, to my mind.

Of course, the growth, usage and sale of  medicinal marijuana  would need further discussion and legislation to guide. More to come on marijuana. Blessings, peace and angelic prosperity and protection.

RELATED READINGS

National Study Shows “Gateway” Drugs Lead to Cocaine Use

Decriminalization of marijuana: is this a realistic public mental health policy for Jamaica?

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