CASTRIES – A former health minister has spoken out against decriminalizing marijuana, warning the measure could have many negative health and social consequences for St Lucia.
“Traditionally, we have a very poor record of monitoring legislation once enacted. We can assume that if marijuana were legalized, even if there were safeguards written into the legislation, there would be little or no monitoring. In practice it would become . . . a free for all,” Sarah Flood-Beaubrun said.
Flood-Beaubrun, who served as health minister in the 1997 to 2001 St Lucia Labour Party government of Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony, acknowledged that while marijuana may have medicinal properties, it was important to weigh the benefits with the likely harm it could cause. The attorney said it was a fact that there were many negative health and social consequences resulting from the use of marijuana.
“During my tenure as minister of health, I was repeatedly advised by the consultant psychiatrist that the majority of young persons at the Golden Hope Hospital were there because of marijuana use. There should be documentation at the Ministry of Health regarding this,” Flood-Beaubrun noted.
She also argued that the effects of increased marijuana use would affect the national economy directly, as well as put an increasing strain on public health services which were already overstretched and not adequately providing mental health care.
“There will very likely be increased use of marijuana due to experimentation. This will come at a social as well as financial cost. Can St Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean afford this?” she asked.
Flood-Beaubrun said that crime could also escalate as a result of the decriminalization of marijuana, noting that many people commit crimes whilst “high” on drugs including alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana.
She said it was important that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) appointed commission established to examine the possibility of decriminalizing marijuana be comprised of competent, unbiased persons, who would look at the issue objectively, taking into account all available scientific and social data regarding marijuana use and possible effects.
“It should not be a commission established to deliver a result which is already predetermined, and the full report of the commission should be made public before any decisions are made,” she said, noting that St Lucia was placing much emphasis on decriminalizing marijuana when there were many more pressing matters to be dealt with.
“How about seriously addressing the myriad of social problems which we currently face, for example, providing additional staff and resources to the Department of Health and Human Services to deal with the high demands for health and social services which overstretch current resources, as opposed to increasing their workload.
“Why use scarce resources to fund a Marijuana Commission at this time of financial hardship? “she asked. (CMC)