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EDITORIAL: Enough of the ganja hot air


EDITORIAL: Enough of the ganja hot air

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THE UNOFFICIAL DEBATE in this country on the call for the legalisation and/or decriminalisation of marijuana has been taking place for several years.

Truth be told, the discussion has not been peculiar to Barbados, especially since the medical marijuana locomotive started rolling across the United States with added steam in recent years.

In Barbados the strongest voices have been from the Rastafarian community, where the drug is associated with worship, and from persons connected to the criminal justice system where the argument relates to the huge number of young people who end up with criminal records as a result of being found with insignificant quantities of ganja.

At this stage we are not attempting to take a position on whether or not its use should be legalised, or whether calls for decriminalising the possession of non-traffickable amounts should be granted. What we are concerned about is the number of years those with the power to act have been saying “let’s talk”, and then returning to silence.

Over the weekend Government’s chief legal adviser, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, made it clear legalisation of ganja use would not occur under his watch unless the country is made to understand the full implications of such a move. That’s not an unreasonable position, but we have to ask: Whose role is it to initiate and even lead the discussion that would result in that understanding?

According to the Attorney General, he is“not for the criminalisation of our young people for small quantities of marijuana . . .  but I am certainly not going to go in the direction of encouraging the Government . . . to legalise marijuana . . . without us understanding the implications . . .”.

Again, we cannot fault Minister Brathwaite for such a position, but whose role is it to take the issue beyond talk from the platform? Whether or not the Attorney General is against the “criminalisation of our young people”, the reality is that that is exactly what is happening today, and has been happening for decades.

And whether or not we are prepared to accept it, there is tremendous anecdotal evidence to support the position that many of the social challenges our young people face stem from challenges they experience after being convicted for possession of quantities of marijuana that are so small, they ought not to be so critical in influencing the future successor failure of the individuals.

This issue is not about whether marijuana should be made available legally for religious, medical or recreational use, but whether we can get beyond the national pastime of politicians and other critical decision-makers “dropping remarks” whenever they have to address some event in a manner that comes over as though they are detached from the matter.

If we had the national will to act, this is a matter that would have been significantly more advanced than it now is. At least we would havesent a clear message to the country on the direction in which we are headed.

Instead, our youth continue to be stigmatised – granted, largely because of their own decisions – while our courts remain clogged to the point of near paralysis; the medical marijuana “industry” is moving ahead while we waffle; and in an environment of declining public financial capacity to adequately take care of key national needs, we expend limited money on locking up our young people at what should be the most productive time of their lives.

Surely we have not reached the stage where we can’t come to a conclusion on anything of importance.