With the debate raging on regarding the legalization of marijuana, which has resulted in Government’s promise to hold a referendum to decide on recreational use, the Barbados Drug Information Network (BARDIN) has provided the public with some cold hard facts to mull over.
According to the findings of a 2016 report, marijuana is the most abused drug among male secondary school-aged children. In delivering the findings, research and information officer Jonathan Yearwood, explained that this subset (secondary school-aged children that use marijuana) shared common traits of behavioral issues.
He noted this fact should be worrying in the context of rising crime which is causing great angst within society.
“There is a possible link between marijuana and behavior problems among adolescent males in secondary schools. We saw the results from the Edna Nicholls Center that said that 13 to 15-year-old males who tested positive for marijuana, were more likely to be suspended for behavior problems. We are not saying that marijuana caused the behavior problems, but we are saying that those young persons who were sent to the Edna Nicholls Center with behavioral problems tested positive for marijuana use,” said Yearwood, who was speaking this morning at BARDIN’s meeting held at the National Union of Public Workers’ (NUPW) conference room, Dalkeith Road.
According to the research, of the 162 students admitted to the center in 2016, 17.3 per cent tested positive for marijuana use. Of the students testing positive for the illegal substance, 93 per cent were between the age of 13-15 years old.
However, the data shows that cocaine use is most problematic in the 20-64 age group, with diagnoses related to the use of the highly addictive substance peaking in the 35 to 44 age group. Making it clear that it would be unfair to generalize without further research, Yearwood theorized that it was possible that this older demographic of drug users had merely shifted from gateway drugs like marijuana to harder substances.
The data also produced positive takeaways for advocates of marijuana legalization, as a legitimization of recreational use would result in massive reduction in the number of persons incarcerated for drug offences.
Delivering the feature address this morning, Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson noted that Government is aware of the correlation between marijuana use and criminal behavior.
“The fact of the matter is that the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit in a 2015 report on the prevalent nature of marijuana use in Barbados, confirmed what most discerning persons in the country already know; there is a strong correlation between early marijuana use and criminal behavior,” said Hinkson who also noted that there is concern about increase use among females.
“The correct balance must however be found somewhere between a rigorous enforcement of the criminal justice system and the need to treat drug dependent individuals and attempt to reform and rehabilitate them. The latter also involves public health focus and must be supported by robust prevention campaigns,” the minister said.