As was predictable, the shocking Front Page story in last evening’s edition of Barbados TODAY dealing with the reported discovery of a sophisticated marijuana-growing facility in a Christ Church community, is already generating much public debate.
The existence of a hydroponics laboratory producing high-grade marijuana for consumption on the local market was revealed by prominent criminal lawyer Arthur Holder in a candid address to an Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) constituency branch meeting over the weekend. Exactly when and where was the discovery were not mentioned, but listeners were left with little doubt that it involved a “big-up” community.
In the insightful presentation on drugs, block culture and crime, Mr Holder, who is also a trained social worker, said the discovery was made by the police. However, he alleged authorities had kept it a secret, in sharp contrast with what he described as the “fanfare” that usually accompanies police announcements of drug finds in working-class communities.
Said Mr Holder: “Too many things are hidden in this country, or authorities try to hide them . . . . A lot of people are not aware that a hydroponics laboratory was discovered in this country in relation to the production of hydro-weed –– a sophisticated laboratory with all of the hydroponics. And, surely, no poor black boy can bring the equipment in. That is a fact.”
What Mr Holder has clearly imputed is that the authorities have one rule for dealing with Peter and another for Paul. Put another way, there is discrimination based on socioeconomic status.
Such a perception, which is known to manifest itself in some working-class communities, represents a serious issue that merits a response from the relevant authorities, especially the police high command, as it can have an undermining effect on public confidence in law enforcement.
Given the revelation about the lab, the possibility cannot be ruled out that other similar marijuana-producing ventures could be secretly operating. As long as there is a hearty appetite for marijuana in Barbados –– and available evidence suggests there is –– the temptation will exist for other “entrepreneurs” to make similar investments in what clearly is a lucrative trade from which handsome profits can be made.
Addressing the BLP’s St Michael Central branch, Mr Holder divulged that, according to what he was told by people on the block, the marijuana grown in the lab was of such high quality that it was fetching up to $10,000 a pound on the local market. He also made mention of the stiff competition which this more potent product was providing for small traders selling lower grade marijuana imported from neighbouring St Vincent.
These revelations again raise questions about how really effective Barbadian authorities are in making any serious dent in the illegal drug trade. It is true that drug interceptions are being made weekly, but a pertinent question that arises is: for every major drug seizure, how much are traffickers still able to slip through after successfully evading the watch of the authorities?
Against this backdrop, the discussion currently taking place at the level of CARICOM regarding the possible legalization of marijuana assumes particular importance and relevance. The grim reality which Barbadian and other regional authorities face in the fight against illegal drugs, especially marijuana, is that while existing laws say marijuana cultivation and consumption are wrong, a steadily growing segment of the population, mostly young people, do not share that view.
It is safe to say, based on available evidence, that the number of people in Barbados who smoke weed today is considerably larger than that of 30 years ago. The odds, therefore, are significantly stacked against winning the war on marijuana. It may be an unpleasant reality which the authorities may have difficulty accepting, but it exists nonetheless.
That is why the current discussion on the possible legalization of marijuana is so important. Barbados TODAY is not in any way recommending the legalization of marijuana. Our job in this instance is simply to place the facts on the table.
The partial legalization of marijuana by a growing number of countries reflects official acknowledgement that they were waging a war which they had steadily diminishing chances of winning.