A Government Minister today called for a new “conversation” on drug abuse, including a change to the mindset on the fight against drugs.
Minister of Maritime Affairs and Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey, in an impassioned speech as lawmakers debated changes to the Act of Parliament that established the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA), said: “I feel that we need to have a conversation about the changing nature of drug use in Barbados. We have to treat to it as human beings. We need to change the narrative and the approach.
“We have a large set of people who have been through things. Who have faced severe challenges…. People who have done things in the most depraved of moments. “
“If you are politician that man’s X is the same as a person’s X. People have value beyond that. We have to give people space to make error and to come back and participate in regular conversations.”
Declaring traditional approaches may no longer be effective, the MP for St Michael South recalled the longue-lashing he got for putting a reformed drug addict on his election campaign platform last May.
Humphrey said: “In my constituency during my election there were people that I put on my election platform. I have a constituent who was on hard drugs…. I am not talking about weed. I am not talking about marijuana I am talking about hard drugs.
“To the extent that when I said I was putting him to speak there were people who said why are you putting him up there? ‘This man use to do drugs…. man Kirk he was a drug addict he lived on the street and that you shouldn’t put him up there because of that …’
“I couldn’t understand that; that is reason why I should put him up there… because he who feels it knows it.
“This man gave me a story of his exposure to drugs. It was one time on [cocaine]. He told me in his mind he had set limits on things he would not do. He wasn’t going to do certain things and every time he said he won’t do this when he really needed the money he found himself doing it.
“It was at that point he knew he had to find help. But that man now is not on hard drugs but he spends so much time talking to the people in the community talking to them about how to live… not only about drugs”
The Minister repeatedly referred to his growing up in The Pine as he cautioned those in authority about branding people who use drugs since each drug carries a different effect.
“What we term a drug and the negative connotations associated with it we also have to have conversations about that too. I know people who behave differently on all kinds of things. And I feel as if we have to have that separate conversation.
“But my relationship with NCSA as well as with other groups must be about building out a community. I am not here to cast judgement on anybody of course if you are guilty of a crime you are guilty,” Humphrey said.