By Anesta Henry
Manager of the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) Betty Hunte has suggested that long-term studies are necessary to measure the impact of the change in legislation to accommodate cannabis use.
Speaking at the NCSA’s panel
discussion titled Cannabis: Medicinal and Recreational: What really is the difference held at the Horatio Cooke auditorium at the National Union of Public Workers headquarters, Hunte said it makes little sense to tout the economic and other benefits of new legislation and not pay attention to possible increased costs associated with drug use and abuse in the workplace.
“Barbados, like so many countries which have amended legislation which treat to cannabis, must commit to the conduct of longitudinal studies which measure the outcomes of such changes in legislation,” Hunte said.
She also called on businesses to become familiar with recent legislative amendments regarding cannabis use, and urged employers to start to offer support to employees who are negatively impacted by drug use.
According to Hunte, the issue of legalisation and decriminalisation of cannabis has generated much discussion internationally, regionally and locally, with validity in many of the claims both for and against.
While cannabis has now been decriminalised for medicinal and sacramental purposes, Hunte pointed out that there is still debate over whether it is right or wrong.
“Research reflects that a wide range of health and social outcomes are affected by psychoactive drug use, including physical harms, psychological harms and social harms. Concomitantly, a diverse and sometimes competing set of goals motivate drug policy development, including social marginalisation experienced by people who use cannabis, sometimes problematically; curtailing illegal markets and drug-related crimes with the associated impacts on the criminal justice system; reducing the health economic burden of drug-related harms and exploring the potential economic benefit to be derived from the development of the pharmaceutical cannabis industry,” she said.
Hunte indicated that the NCSA has been challenged to show how its message remains relevant given the emerging scientific evidence and growing social acceptance of the use of cannabis.
With evidence showing that cannabis still has mind and mood altering properties, Hunte said the council’s mandate includes devising, undertaking and promoting programmes and projects aimed at the prevention, elimination or control of substance abuse and undertaking or facilitating programmes for the treatment and rehabilitation of persons affected by it.
“We do this based on findings of our surveys buttressed by regional/international data so that we are not ignorant to the fact that cannabis, like most other drugs, can be used beneficially, but it can also be abused. Our educational outreach will continue to caution against indiscriminate use of substances and provide support for those who unfortunately suffer the adverse effects of substance abuse,” she said.