President of the Barbados Road Safety Association (BRSA) Sharmane Roland-Bowen is urging Government to put the brakes on legalizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes if policies would not immediately be put in place to police its use.
As the debate about the legalization of medical marijuana continues, Roland-Bowen said her fear was that like alcohol, residents would use the drug and then go on the road despite being impaired.
“Safety is paramount so we need people to be well-educated on the side effects of these drugs because making a drug legal does not make it safe,” said Roland-Bowen.
“This is not as easy as alcohol because there is no international or universal device like how all the countries use breathalyzers . . . There is no universal device that counties are using to test people,” she said.
Earlier this month Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that a framework for medical cannabis use would be in place very soon.
“There is no doubt that we will put a framework in place for medical cannabis within the next week or so,” Mottley said during a CIBC FirstCaribbean Barbados Client Economic forum at the Sandals Barbados at the start of this month.
“In fact, we have more or less taken a decision, we just need some refining and training with practitioners,” she said, while adding that freeing up the drug for recreational use would be decided by referendum.
However, Roland-Bowen said while she was not against the legalization of the drug for medical or recreational use, she wanted Barbados to be proactive and put legislation in place to police its use and not only focus on the financial benefits.
She insisted that Government not wait until there were accidents as a result of the use of the drug to go back to the drawing board.
“So we want to start now. We want Government to understand that it needs to happen along with and not after, the legislation in order to manage and police and stop persons from going on the road under the influence of the marijuana. Measures have to be put in place to protect the innocent road users with whom they will come into contact,” she said.
“Our main concern is that we need legislation to be put in place on how they are going to keep impaired persons from using our roads,” she insisted.
Pointing to the need for greater education on the subject, Roland-Bowen suggested that special locations be established as part of the safety measures, to ensure those who use the drug do so in a controlled environment and not leave until it wears off.
“If you know you are going to be using the drug for medical purposes allow yourself time to let it wear off before you go on the road. Six hours is an average time but it depends on the dosage, it might be longer hours. So you let it wear off or if you can’t wait designate a driver,” she suggested.
The road safety advocate said following an unofficial survey the BRSA found that residents were still unaware of the various impacts of marijuana use.
“We questioned people about marijuana and a lot of them need to know more about it,” she said, adding that if medical cannabis was introduced without an aggressive education campaign “we will find that accidents will increase” she feared.