EDITORIAL: Don’t be fooled, ganja can harm our children
THIS IS THE ERA of calls for the global legalisation of marijuana and exploitation of its economic benefits. At the same time, usage of the drug is condoned in growing segments of Caribbean societies. Many people argue that it should be permitted for use on recreational and religious grounds; others extol its supposed medical benefits. Support for this “natural drug” is becoming the new normal.
Those pushing to decriminalise marijuana advance varied arguments, including the absurd and scientifically unproven, to support their positions. Removing the criminality is also an emotive argument. Yet, what is often overlooked is the harm this drug causes, especially to young people.
This is why the recent finding of a survey by Government’s Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit that indicates the average age of first use of marijuana in Barbados is seven, is so startling. Barbadians must be concerned about this development, for while our children seem to be generally aware of the harmful impact of cigarettes and alcohol, it is evident they are much less concerned about ganja. They are being raised in an environment which paints a different picture of this drug.
We must not forget that the big tobacco industry promoted and defended cigarettes and worked hard to make their usage socially acceptable. Thanks to medical science, the dangerous cancer-causing effects of tobacco smoking were exposed. It will take time for science to study the full impact of marijuana. But, already in United States, where medical and recreational cannabis sales are allowed in some states, disquieting new trends and statistics are proving its unique dangers to children.
Proponents of ganja usage advance the notion that it is not habit-forming, but research data has shown otherwise. While pot – as it is also called – may not be conclusively shown to cause cancer, medical scientists have at the same time said that its harmful emotional and mental effects will take time to capture in studies. Much of the scepticism by the medical fraternity is rooted in science and practical psychological analyses and not based simply on the anecdotal or traditional beliefs.
The Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit, formerly the National Task Force on Crime Prevention, needs to undertake more research into marijuana’s usage while the University of the West Indies ought to expand scientific investigations on medical uses for the drug’s chemical components that may be useful without producing a high.
There are persuasive arguments for and against the use of pot. This is why the question of whether it should be legalised is one that cannot be left to medical scientists only, but must include law enforcers and other influencers in society. The lessons of prohibition and incarceration relating to this drug have been dismal failures, even in Barbados. But, the same way most responsible adults recognise the dangers of children consuming alcohol, the same reasoning must be applied to their access to pot.
We must not tell our children that marijuana is natural and not a problem. There is nothing further from the truth.