THE EDITOR: Our cultural taboo, well at least at leadership levels, in the Caribbean has substantially inhibited our progress in dealing with the usage of the marijuana plant in our society economically, socially and legally.
My father, when in his eighties, commented to me that he did not understand what was the big ado about ganja, as it was called then. He told me that when he grew up in San Juan, I believe in the 1920s-30s, it was commonplace in the neighbourhood for people returning home after work to either smoke it or drink ganja tea.
No one was regarded as a drug user, criminal or anti-social. Quite the contrary. It was the rum-and-Coke of the day. No big thing. There was no conversation about addiction, or any prevalence of addicts he could recall.
So how did we get here? How did we get to a place that a plant of nature leads to so much crime? The arresting of young people who want to sit in their verandas or backyards and take a smoke, like so many do who drink alcohol? What have we found to be wrong with growing your stuff in your yard for your own private use?
Have we allowed the big countries to manipulate our approach to dealing with this plant? The same ones who are now well on their way to commercialising it as medicine etc? In California, marijuana is now a bigger industry than wine.
Let’s face it, there is no one anywhere in the Caribbean who wants to smoke marijuana who is not doing so now. There is no reason to believe that if tomorrow the headline news is that marijuana has been legalised that those who do not currently use it will immediately run and do so. It would be the same as alcohol. It is there for all to purchase. Some do not use it. Others use it moderately. Some use as much as they can get.
It is a matter of personal choice. It is also a matter of education on the good and bad. The addiction has more to do with the user and his/her propensity for same, much less so than the addictiveness or the availability of the drug.
What we can be sure of, if the headlines tomorrow did announce its decriminalisation and/or legalisation, is that the price would decrease; officials would not have to be paid bribes to facilitate the route to market; it would not be as profitable for those who just want to make a killing; the associated criminality would likely subside.
We need no further education to know that wherever there is demand, supply will always find a way to satisfy it. It is only a matter of at what cost – financially and socially. The prohibition period (for alcohol) should have taught us all we need to know in this regard.
So, we need leadership to alter our perspectives. Start thinking regulation, economic advantages, education of the population, although many would argue that there is already a significant degree of that out there.