Counsellor at the Centre For Counselling Addiction Support Alternatives (CASA), Jerry Bellamy, has come out strongly against the legalization of marijuana in Barbados.
Bellamy issued his caution today during an interview with Barbados TODAY at the clinic’s headquarters in Westbury Road, St Michael.
Giving his reason for opposing the legalization of this mind-altering drug, Bellamy said: “Most of the cases we encounter at CASA involve the abuse of marijuana. The misuse of marijuana can result in the loss of memory, a change in behaviour, and a decline in discipline. During my counselling sessions I usually show the youth the dangers of marijuana.
“The drug is very damaging to the developing mind, and we focus on this area. It can retard the development of the young mind. Between the school age of five and 18 years is the time a child needs to be alert to learn things, and build character and learn values.”
Noting that most of the people attending clinics at CASA were between the ages of 13 and the early 30s, with approximately 80 per cent being male, Bellamy contended that too many young people were being incarcerated for marijuana use, which is really a health issue.
“Incarceration does not help victims of marijuana abuse,” the counsellor advised. “These people need therapy. We at CASA teach clients how to deal with stressful situations, how to be assertive without being rude and crude, and how to build positive self-esteem.
“We also advise them against frequenting certain areas. A lot of adolescents today live in very stressful situations,” Bellamy revealed.
He further explained that many of today’s youth used marijuana as a “relaxer”, a stress reliever from the current harsh social and economic realities.
Bellamy pointed out that over its 15 years, the clinic had assisted more than 2,000 people, many of whom had been referred by the Royal Barbados Police Force, schools, the law courts, the Child Care Board, and parents.
The long-standing counsellor charged that many of the youth referred to CASA had come from dysfuntional homes where parents knew very little about parenting.
Retired teacher Sherryl Griffith, who serves as a volunteer counsellor, said that initially CASA catered to the needs of adults who had fallen victim to alcohol abuse, but later introduced a programme that sought to educate and prevent children between the ages of five and 13 from falling victim to marijuana abuse.
Griffith further stated that the organization, which was founded by returning national Orlando Jones, boasted trained individuals who held Master’s degrees in social work, psychology and sociology.
Meanwhile, board trustee Jennifer Maynard has called on the corporate sector to come on board at this time of economic turbulence, as CASA had had to scale back the operations of the clinic.