There has been swift reaction to a recommendation by a sitting High Court judge for the decriminalisation of ganja in Barbados.
When Justice Randall Worrell addressed the opening of a national consultation for a comprehensive Anti-Drug Plan for Barbados at the Amaryllis Beach Resort, in Christ Church, he suggested that the laws should be reviewed to decriminalise marijuana for personal use only, as one way to prevent the clogging up of the court system.
Former psychiatric nurse and head of the Centre for Counselling Addiction Support Alternative, Orlando Jones, told Barbados TODAY, while he understood what Justice Worrell was saying, he did not see his recommendation solving the drug problem in the island.
“I believe decriminalising ganja would exacerbate the problem. In fact, it would give young people, who already smoke openly and don’t see a problem with using the drug … a licence to abuse marijuana even more,” Jones argued.
He said his agency dealt with many young people who were referred to it by the Probation Department or schools for drug counseling, who insisted that they did not need any help, because they were not doing anything wrong.
“Many people don’t see any harm in using drugs. Nobody speaks a lot about the harm. We see a lot of young people at CASA who are using marijuana,” the drug counsellor noted.
“Barbados is going the way of other countries on the global scene. So much pressure is being placed on small island states now to conform. Young people are reading the Internet and the message is reflected in what is happening globally. A number of states in the US have decriminalised marijuana,” Jones stated.
Head of the Police Drug Squad, Superintendent Grafton Phillips, said any decriminalisation of marijuana would mean the need for more trained professionals and facilities to treat users.
“People would be using the drug more openly,” Phillips observed.
However, he said that as law enforcers they would have to adhere to whatever the law required, whether or not the drug was decriminalised.
The senior police officer reasoned that at the moment, there were some drug offences for the courts they would usually withdraw or for which they would be convicted, reprimanded and discharged. For instance, he cited persons who possessed one gram or less of cocaine. He explained that any amount more than that would constitute a traffickable quantity.
Phillips said the two offences carried separate and distinct penalties. (EJ)†††