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Matthew Farley


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With all the pro-medical marijuana publicity . . . it can be hard to remember that marijuana is indeed damaging and addictive . . .”. –
The Daily Nation of January 30, 2014, carried an article under the caption Ganja Stance. Most of the contents of the article refer to remarks attributed to Senator Verla De Peiza, who insists that she was speaking in her capacity as a lawyer and as a criminologist.
I am neither lawyer nor criminologist and as such I cannot question the competency of Miss De Peiza in terms of legal matters but something is very wrong in her logic or lack of it in her comments. I was not at the discussion which was convened by the National Council for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency at the National Library Service and as such I am limited to what the media reported as having been said.
The criminologist starts by asserting that “use” rather than “abuse” of ganja should have been our focus for the past 40 years. Similarly, as an optimist I might want to argue that good rather bad, that heat rather than cold, that life rather than death and that wealth rather than poverty should have been our concern over the years. The first question I pose to our learned senator is this: how do you separate “use” from “abuse” in real sociological terms? Are they not sides of the same coin?
The reality is that the impact of the abuse of ganja has been devastating on the lives of thousands of individuals, on many families and societies the world over. Similarly, in spite the fact that cocaine has proven medicinal value, I am not aware of any countries, developed or undeveloped, that have legalized cocaine because we should have been focusing on its usefulness and not the abuse of it.
The article continues: “At the end of the day, the 40 years we have missed, had we allowed ourselves to open our minds and expand what we thought we knew, where could we be today?”
My second question to the outspoken senator: Where would we have been had we focused on use rather than abuse of herb? Are you suggesting that the current regional economic woes could have been turned around from the financial gains which would have accrued from a ganja industry?
Let me admit that there is some veracity in Verla’s assertion that one can be addicted to virtually anything. So what is the point, Miss De Peiza? In a real world where the ravages of the abuse of marijuana are well documented, tell me, Madam Criminologist, how are you going to separate its use from its abuse? There is a rum industry for which Barbados is known globally but alcoholism is still destroying families and having an adverse effect on productivity in the workplace. Does this learned luminary have some special powers that she can separate the use of alcohol from the abuse of it?
Even before I publicly challenge Miss De Peiza to publish the research which has informed her Ganja Stance, she must answer a few questions. Firstly, are you advocating the legalization of marijuana in Barbados and across the region because it helped your father with glaucoma and Parkinson’s disease? Was that the extent of your sample size? Are you using anecdotal evidence to make serious scientific pronouncements about matters outside of your area of training?
Is Miss De Peiza in possession of groundbreaking research than can help Parkinson’s disease and glaucoma locally and regionally? If so, why have so many Barbadians been flocking to Havana for help when right here in Barbados help is available? Come on, Miss De Peiza, a piece of research conducted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for a Master of Laws degree is one thing, but its findings fall short of forming the basis on which to make broad generalizations about the usefulness of ganja, in Barbados or anywhere.
As opinion shapers in this country, we have to be very careful what messages we send to our youth, especially on issues like drugs. I invite Miss De Peiza to take a tour of rehab unit at the Psychiatric Hospital and thereafter continue her public discourse about splitting hairs between the use and the abuse of ganja! Perhaps then and only then will the goodly senator understand the truth of why marijuana is anathema to much of the values and mores that I am sure learned persons like Miss Verla De Peiza hold dear.