There’s great excitement surrounding the possible decriminalization and potential legalization of (Cannabis Sativa) Popularly know as Marijuana or Ganja. This sense of euphoria is not confined to my native Jamaica where feelings are running high but in several American states as well. In Jamaica, marijuana users are in proverbial seventh heaven at the prospect of being able to smoke to their heart’s content without having to worry about (babylon) the police. For their part, some European countries had long eased restrictions on cannabis use, the Netherlands readily comes to mind. Colorado and Washington states in the pacific north west of the United States, have moved to legalize the use of cannabis, although they have done so under the cover of (for medicinal purposes). Of course the American Federal Government has not done anything to suggest that it will be moving to decriminalize the use and sale of Cannabis Sativa. In fact as I said in a previous blog ,the Obama Administration continue to deport people , including Jamaicans from the United States for the sale of marijuana.
As a child growing up in Jamaica I had marijuana tea, I never smoked the weed. My family members were local farmers who planted it among hills of yams for their personal use. One cousin actually went to prison for 18 months for planting it. Later I joined the Police department and it was my sworn duty to enforce the laws, including that of cannabis use, sale and cultivation. I just never went out of my way to make criminals of anyone who used it. In fact there were a few times that I turned a blind eye to amounts of the weed that would have sent the owner to prison for long periods of time. I am neither proud of it neither am I ashamed that I did. Yesterday I hinted in a discussion forum that no one expected brains under the fog of cannabis smoke to be objective participants in this necessary discussion surrounding legalization. That leaves the rest of us who are disinterested parties, to think through the haze and the smoke from those blazing away with euphoric abandon. Despite the passionate zeal of supporters, it bears looking at what potential negatives may occur from legalization/decriminalization in Jamaica ! American states taking steps to ease restrictions have solid infrastructural support in place to deal with potential fallout if any.
US Justice Department noted that jurisdictions that had enacted laws legalizing marijuana in some form, implemented strong regulatory and enforcement systems to control cultivation, distribution and possession, and which are in compliance with such laws, “are less likely to threaten the federal priorities of enforcing the federal law“. Jamaica cannot say the same . How then can a small nation like ours, which is struggling mightily with myriad issues of crime , child delinquency,unemployment, gang activities, drug addiction and poverty to name a few, not be cautious?
Does anyone, mind unclouded by marijuana smoke, uncluttered by unrealistic dreams of excess amounts of ganja dollars, really believe Jamaica’s problems will not be exacerbated if this issue is not looked at carefully? Where is the evidence which shows legalization will be a panacea to the country’s financial woes? Was Alumina, Coffee, Sugar-cane, Banana,Cocoa , or even Tourism that silver bullet? Experts have warned that despite potential positives of marijuana, it is still an addictive gate-way drug which leads to addiction to more potent drugs. How do we square this with hundreds of thousands of our young school-age children legally puffing away on their way to school, while in school or on their way from school? How do we deal with the health effects? And lastly, have anyone bothered to think of the effects this will have with free flowing weed and the guns coming in? Of course not ! Everyone is currently actively engaged in talking about potential tax revenue to be had. Some are even talking about Jamaica becoming some kind of ganja smoking Utopian paradise. I am just concerned that we do not wake up from our ganja induced slumber to find we have a reached a point of no return. Before supporters start counting the windfall, whats wrong with looking at the potential downside?