Let us smoke! Let us smoke! Let us smoke!
If some Caribbean leaders and political and social commentators have
their way, that’s what some among us could be singing this Christmas.
The air could take the place of Bing Crosby’s Let It Snow.
Of course, the present and vigorous call for the decriminalizing of
marijuana use is nothing original, or distinctive. People have been pleading
for its legalization since the 1970s.
And, legalized use or not, some Rastafarians have been extolling its
holiness; the drug lords, its business benefits; and some of our doctors and
lawyers, its medicinal value and health good.
We have highly educated and reasoned minds making a strong case for
marijuana decriminalization, despite the fact the herb –– for all its medicinal
magic –– yet impairs logical thinking and benumbs the mind, making users
lethargic and unproductive; even despite the fact the drug
could induce psychosis.
It is not unknown that one of the dozens of fundamental herbs of
traditional Chinese medicine has been cannabis, prescribed for an avalanche
of illnesses –– which revelation peaked fervent interest in the use of the drug
more as an occasion than a reason or cause in the Western world.
Of course, the medical marijuana theory has always met opposition,
as it continues to today.
Its opposers have argued that the plant really fails to meet the standard
requirements for approved medicine, some presenting “documented
evidence” of serious negative health effects.
From back in the 1970s in the United States, proponents of marijuana
use have been hailing its healing properties, and some American states,
capitulating, approved it as such, as well as decriminalized it that it might be
puffed legally at one’s leisure.
We are not unmindful of the many stories of usage of marijuana in the
Caribbean as a smoking stress reliever and as a tea for a variety of ailments.
But it is the social argument for its decriminalization that provokes
compelling thought. Proponents say prosecution of spliff users, plant
growers and distributors takes up much police and court time, and that
the legalization of pot would free up our officers to prevent and seek out
far more serious crimes, and ease the backlog of court cases, and, to boot,
reduce the number of people in prison.
In addition, proponents argue that in these hard economic times legalized
marijuana and its use could raise millions in tax revenue –– like drinking
alcohol does. Furthermore, it would eliminate the gangs and turf battles, for
any shop, minimart or supermarket could now sell pot.
How long the freeing up concept will work for Colorado in the United
States where since November last year that state, under the Campaign
To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol ballot initiative, backed by
the Marijuana Policy Project, allows personal cultivation, possession,
production and distribution is anybody’s guess.
In some other places people are allowed to be in possession legally of up
to one ounce, even though possession per se remains a crime under law ––
a situation where, obviously, constant access to weight scales and the tedium
of police surveillance ensue.
Some years ago, the British medical journal Lancet opined that smoking
cannabis, even long-term, was not harmful to health.
“It would be reasonable to judge cannabis as less of a threat . . . than
alcohol or tobacco,” it said.
The National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine in the United
States has been more cautious. It is of the view that “except for the harms
associated with smoking, the adverse effects are within the range tolerated
for other medications”. And we know how debilitating and sometimes fatal
those side effects can be.
Interestingly, American studies have shown that marijuana
decriminalization has had virtually no effect on marijuana use among youth
in states enacting the policy. And where there continues to be enforcement
of the law there has been no reduction in use either.
Users just don’t believe they will be caught.
Indeed, what to do? Shall we wander as Britain and the United States
are? Or shall we apply the commons sense our centenarians unremittingly
espouse in the media on their birthdays?