Closer look at dope
The time has come for the true value or dangers of marijuana to be fully investigated, says clinical pharmacologist Dr Kenneth Connell.
He was part of a panel discussing the topic Marijuana, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly by the National Council On Substance Abuse (NCSA) at the Queen’s Park Steel Shed on Tuesday night.
Other members of the panel were NCSA head Yolande Forde, senior consultant psychiatrist Dr Ermine Belle and “recovering addict” Stefan Bowen.
Among the 250 members of the highly involved audience was a large representation of the Rastafarian community, head of the National Council For The Prevention Of Alcohol And Drug Dependency (NCPADD), Victor Roach and Cheryl Willoughby of the National Task Force On Crime Prevention.
The recommendation of Connell came at the end of more than two hours of debate where it was indicated that marijuana contained over 400 active chemicals and therefore it was difficult to predict how the chemical would affect users.
He cautioned that the marijuana available today was unlike the marijuana of 20 years ago since the potency was greater and thus, the chances of causing chemical damage to one’s body were greater.
Meanwhile, Forde stressed that using marijuana had unearthed mental problems among some people, whereas members of the audience argued that the marijuana had not created the mental problems which were already present in the patient.
Bowen, while indicating that he enjoyed using marijuana from age seven, disclosed that he had entered Verdun House on an agreement with the court to clean up his act.
When asked by Forde if he had been using other stuff with marijuana, Bowen created great laughter when he responded curtly: “Brandy!”
Psychiatrist Belle stated that the addiction to drugs had destroyed many lives and homes, but she said that marijuana was a dependency drug and not an addictive drug.
She responded to members of the audience’s annoyance that marijuana was being labelled a drug by explaining that anything which altered one’s chemical or mental status was a drug.
Jack Ipal, an elderly member of the audience, said that he felt sorry for the younger people who were using marijuana since what was available today was “corrupted with cigarette and nicotine”.
“When the police hold a youngster today with a spliff, that spliff is more cigarette than ganja,” stated Ipal.
Another audience member, Nicholas Sobers, told the panel that NCSA needed to embark on educating the public more on marijuana and not just focus on saying that it was bad.
“They are two types of marijuana and no one has died in Barbados from smoking marijuana, unlike cigarettes and drinking rum, which are all legal,” pointed out Sobers.
When Belle indicated that there was no empirical data to state that marijuana was addictive she was given a great applause.
However, Cheryl Willoughby of the Task Force On The Prevention Of Crime drew attention to the link between crime among the youth and the use of illegal drugs.
Similarly, Michelle Sampson of Teen Challenge attempted to highlight the cost to the country of treating addicts.
Outspoken member of the Rastafarian community Ras Amicus said he was proud to see the NCSA having to back away from a contrary argument against marijuana because of the information available through technology. He contended that the panel was not balanced since it did not contain a person to give the “good” side to marijuana.
On that note Fabian Dandelion Jones spoke of the use of the marijuana plant to fashion belts and clothing. This was acknowledged by Forde.