This publication is the last we will produce for 2012, and we are completing the process of production at a time when many Barbadians would perhaps be quietly reflecting on the year that is just about gone, and resolving within themselves how they will cope with the challenges of 2013.
Perhaps one aspect of life every Barbadian can give some consideration to is looking out for someone else, rather than being always caught up in what we can gain for ourselves.
We are particularly concerned about the use of illegal drugs, in particular, marijuana, among our youth, and do so against the backdrop of last week’s tour by a number of senior Government and non-government officials to a property in St. George that will be converted for use as a treatment facility for women caught in the web of drug addiction.
We wholeheartedly support the venture, and share the view of Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson that such a facility would provide alternative sentencing options for presiding court officers, who now have to choose primarily between the Psychiatric Hospital and Dodds Prison.
While we are not experts, we believe we know enough to conclude that the Psychiatric Hospital is not the best place to send someone for drug treatment; and that while many of the persons on drugs enter the criminal justice system as a result of some criminal act, their primary problem often is not the crime, but the addiction that led to the crime.
In a nutshell, while many individuals and institutions have done a whole lot to assist persons who are either at the stage of experimenting with illegal drugs or who are now full-blown addicts, nationally Barbados is not nearly up to date in terms of its legislation, facilities or personnel to deal with the scale of the problem we face.
We arrive at this conclusion because while we can’t say that our secondary schools are overrun with “druggies”, we certainly believe there is enough anecdotal and unscientific evidence for us to conclude that a very sizeable portion of our school population has experimented with marijuana.
It is not necessary to get into the arguments at this stage about whether ganja is harmful or not, because even if the best scientists were to advance tangible evidence that marijuana smoke does no harm, they would have a hard time convincing anyone that the anti-social behaviour associated particularly with youth who consume the drug was not detrimental to their own development — even their survival.
We believe that greater focus must be placed on this in the new year, and we hope that we will see the same high-ranking officials looking at additional properties to offer the same services to boys, who by virtue of numbers, present and even bigger challenge. The country urgently needs such facilities.
But even as we place greater emphasis on treatment, we cannot ignore that fact that an even more urgent and fundamental step has to be determining how we will keep our young people away from drugs in the first place. And please don’t let us all rush off in the direction of greater policing.
Yes, there is a need for that, and interdiction must be a critical component of the national fight, but perhaps the social and psychological avenues must be more urgently travelled. We need to find out why so many of our young people will puff on a spliff with the same ease as they would gulp a mouthful of milk or Pepsi.
While we are at it, we need to enact legislation with serious muscle to deal with underage drinking. It seem as if beer and stout are now every day drinks for too many of today’s youth — regarded no differently than a 7-Up or Sprite. And in this case much of the muscle must be designed to flex in the direction of those who profit from selling alcohol to minors.
There is no doubt that we will continue to have economic challenges in 2013, with the possibility of things getting worse before they start to get better — but if we don’t tackle the growing social issue, when the economy picks up we will have a lot of fried brains and one hell of a mess to clean up.