Some members of the clergy believe that Barbados should approach the legalisation of marijuana for medical purposes with a greater degree of caution.
Head of Mount Zion Missions, Reverend Dr. Lucille Baird, condemned what she called the sudden introduction of medical marijuana legislation as Barbadians were grappling with economic challenges. She accused the relevant authorities of “slipping it under the radar” while Barbadians were otherwise distracted.
“While Barbadians were under the aneathesia of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme, and anxious about the layoffs and the other issues associated with that, they got injected with legalised medical marijuana.
“What is worse is that this measure was introduced without any national referendum, town hall meetings or any other public discussion, and it can potentially cause long-term devastating effects on this nation, as other much bigger countries have experienced since making similar moves,” she charged.
Baird also expressed concern about policing the doctors who will prescribe medical marijuana, noting that there was potential for abuse in the same way that medical practitioners were called out several years ago for issuing sick leave certificates for people who were not necessarily ill, creating a drain on the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) as a result.
President of the East Caribbean Conference of Seventh Day Adventists, Pastor R. Danforth Francis, admitted that “not all the facts are available” regarding the effectiveness of medical marijuana. He noted that the health message was a major element of his denomination and the Seventh Day Adventist church did not support the use of any drugs, legal or otherwise, that could damage people’s health.
He stated while “medical marijuana” implied the drug would be used in a controlled manner, “there are several strains of marijuana, some of which are more harmful than others, so if it is being prescribed, medical professionals will have to make sure they get it right. I know that sometimes people are given concoctions of drugs to relieve pain, but I do not think this is the route we should take.”
Monsignor Vincent Blackett of the Roman Catholic Church agreed with Pastor Francis that the facts about medical marijuana were unknown, and admitted he was totally against the legalisation of any mind-altering substance. “Are the people advocating for the legalisation of medical marijuana really suffering from illnesses where the drug has been proven as an effective treatment, or is it just a gateway to full legalisation of it for recreational purposes as well?” he asked.
In his view, there were “more questions than answers” on the issue, and “Just because other countries are doing it, that does not mean we should follow them, especially since we have no proof as to how effective it is in alleviating any health problems.”