Sooner or later, Government will have to face the fact that more and more Barbadians, particularly young people, are open to the decriminalization of cannabis, a local researcher said today.
Quoting previously released statistics which showed that the number of people against decriminalization had dropped steeply from 80 per cent in 2008 to 36 per cent by 2014, Research Assistant at the Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) Devaron Bruce said it was time for a change in legislation to allow for use of marijuana in small quantities.
Bruce told a symposium on ganja hosted by the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies that other Caribbean countries were softening their stance on use of the drug, and he anticipated that changes to the law here would come with a change of Government.
“If there is a change of Government, hopefully there will be a change in legislation as well because we’ve seen decriminalization in Jamaica, we’ve seen Antigua is starting to move towards it, we’ve seen the Prime Minister of St Vincent speak in favour of decriminalization as well. So it is certainly not an issue that any Government in the next two to three years will be able to run from, considering that who it affects mostly are young persons,” Bruce said in his presentation on Public Opinion On The Decriminalization of Ganja in Barbados.
The Barbadian researcher acknowledged that there were concerns over the possible side effects of the herb; however, he said economic opportunities, particularly through research, were going to waste while the country maintained laws that made use of weed a crime.
In addition, he said, decriminalization would ease the court system, clogged with cases of young people facing charges for marijuana possession and use.
“In the court system, we have a situation right now where we have more inmates on remand and are serving sentences [for marijuana possession] and it is clogging the judicial system. And delayed justice is no justice, essentially.
“And any serious Government should consider the benefits because the world is moving forward and leaving us behind. We will probably end up in a situation where we end up importing much of the marijuana products in the future, and we will not have made any kind of patents or any kind of emphasis on what is being done. So we can’t stay behind when everyone else is moving forward,” Bruce told Barbados TODAY.
Meanwhile, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Undergraduate Studies Professor Alan Cobley reiterated calls to Government, non-governmental organisations and the private sector to provide the necessary support for research in Barbados.
According to him, the Cave Hill campus had already started in that area, with a project under way at College Lands, St John to cultivate several plants and investigate their medicinal properties. The project, funded by the United Nations Development Programme, is co-chaired by Codrington College Principal Father Michael Clarke and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences Dr Damian Cohall.
However, Cobley lamented that marijuana could not be included in the project, as cultivation of the plant is illegal here.
“We need a change in the law similar to that seen in Jamaica to allow the legal cultivation of the plant under licence for research on its medical use. Here is one example where Government can help to support the University’s research efforts,” Cobley told the symposium held under the theme, Marijuana: Perpetual problem or potential problem solver for Barbados.
Jamaica amended its Dangerous Drugs Act last year decriminalizing small amounts of pot and paving the way for a lawful medical marijuana sector.