THE EDITOR: The loosening up of the law on cannabis possession and use means that more people will use cannabis. The adverse physical and mental health effects will therefore be greater in the longer term. People who were not normally inclined to try cannabis will be under greater social influence to try it. Many will get hooked.
The Hansard up to the second reading of The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is good reading. Most people have neither time nor inclination to read these things.
I have to commend my medical colleague, Senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh, for his strenuous efforts in informing the House of the dangers of decriminalising cannabis. The good doctor’s knowledge and experience shone but fell by the wayside, as expedience applied to declogging a failed and starved criminal justice system took priority.
Deyalsingh rightly told everyone of the serious physical and mental health problems that are associated with cannabis use. He spoke well to the cognitive and behavioural changes seen in those who used cannabis on a regular basis. However, Deyalsingh said in closing:
“So in conclusion I am thinking we have been given this legislation but we will have to be a little careful, we do not know what is coming around the corner, what dangers are there and I am thinking that we have to prepare for it and safeguard our youths by putting certain things in place. Thank you, Mr Vice-President.”
I think that we need to be more than “a little careful.” It was surprising that Deyalsingh did not know “what dangers are there” when he had spelled out the risks so very well.
I know exactly what is around the corner, considering the well-known dangers. Here is my forecast for the next 15 years if cannabis remains decriminalised in TT, all else remaining the same as today.
1. Upward pressure on the homicide rate.
2. Upward pressure on the overall crime rate.
3. There will be an increase in drug-driving incidents as a category and more road deaths related to cannabis use (unlikely to be detected as such).
4. There will be an increase in private drug parties across the country.
5. The police will find their hands even more full in fighting all the above.
6. The ailing court system will have temporary relief from hitherto minor cannabis related offences but then see more serious related offences.
7. The mental health of people and the nation will suffer.
8. Cancers caused by cannabis use will increase.
9. Life expectancy will be lost among certain population groups, especially younger people.
10. Gross domestic product is likely to face downward pressure.
11. Lawyers stand to make more money.
I can reasonably infer all of the above – as can all people applying basic common sense. One does not need to be a medical doctor or mental health expert to foresee these things.
Some will argue that education programmes on the harmful effects of cannabis will limit its use. To what extent? If it was that simple, then your government could easily have done all that educating 20 years ago and avoided most of the problems associated with cannabis use. Education programmes will fail miserably as new social pressures and encouragements to use cannabis emerge.
TT is obviously not the UK, Netherlands or other First World countries that have the sort of resources to detect and manage people who use cannabis. But even in First World nations, there have been increases in “drug-driving” offences and related deaths.
It’s often thrown around at various health campaigns, “No health without mental health.” But they don’t show the fine print: “...subject to politricks and the greater good; minorities shall suffer.”
The bottom line is that the legislation is good for clearing the dog house in which the legal system has been forced to live in over the last 30 years. This new amendment to the law is dangerous to the health of people and that of the nation. The perceived good to be derived for the many – largely about false economics – will cost a significant minority. They will not find their “equal place.”
All rise and hypocritically sing your national anthem.
DR RUSSELL D LUTCHMAN
consultant forensic psychiatrist