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Editorial: The Two Faces Of Marijuana – Medical And Recreational

WE ARE pleased that Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, in considering whether marijuana should be legalised in the Bahamas, will not be looking at the revenue that such legalisation might bring in, but on the medical benefits that marijuana, if controlled, could offer our people.

Already we hear excited talk as though some Bahamians think that with a shovel and a bit of earth, they can have their own ganja plot in their backyard and reap themselves a fortune.

The Bahamas has suffered the destructive side of marijuana from the early seventies when Colombian drug peddlers — Joe Lehder, Kojak. and “the boys” – paid their way through these islands, corrupting from the highest to the lowest of our citizens and destroying the moral fibre of our people. Most of today’s criminality and gang mentality took root in those early days of illegality.

Today, a new light has been thrown on the marijuana plant, which has manifested many benefits that the medical profession is studying, in some cases with astonishing results.

In the United States it has been suggested that the legalisation of marijuana could help offset that country’s current opioid epidemic – described as “the worst opioid epidemic the world has ever seen.” Research in the US has shown that opioid overdose in the past 15 years “has been implicated in over 500,000 deaths since 2000 – more than the number of Americans killed in World War II.”

Doctors are now speculating that legal marijuana might be a preferred medical substance — “unlike opioids it has little addiction potential and virtually no deaths” from an overdose. Teams of researchers are now comparing states that have legalised marijuana to those that do not.

So far it has been discovered that there are fewer deaths from opioid use when opioids have been dropped as medication and marijuana substituted. However, the medical fraternity is still wrestling with the miracles of nature.

California was the first state to legalise marijuana in 1996, followed by 29 states since then with very rigid restrictions. Researchers have agreed that “as more states debate the merits of legalising marijuana in the coming months and years, more research will be needed to create consistency between cannabis science and cannabis policy.”

Last year history was made when Jamaican scientist Dr Henry Lowe developed a drug from cannabis (the marijuana plant) to treat acute myeloid leukemia. He was granted “orphan-drug” designation by the United States Food and Drug Administration to continue his research.

And in England, Britain’s Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies announced this month that she had found “conclusive evidence of the therapeutic benefit of cannabis-based medicinal products for certain medical conditions.”

Canada also announced plans to legalise marijuana this month for recreational as well as medical use. Of course, there are very strict rules about growing marijuana —up to four plants at home, provided they are not more than a meter high. The minimum age for recreational use is 18 years, although some provinces can raise the age limit. The federal government plans to impose penalties of up to 14 years in prison for selling or giving marijuana to minors.

However, some in Canada’s medical profession have expressed grave concern about the dangers of setting too low a minimum age. The Canadian Psychiatric Association has sought to ban sales to anybody under the age of 21 and limit the potency of products sold to people between 21 and 25.

“There is a strong evidence base showing that early and regular cannabis use can affect cognition, such as memory, attention, intelligence and the ability to process thoughts and experiences,” said Renuka Prasad, president of the association, who also noted that cannabis use can “increase the risk of mental-health issues like depression and psychotic disorders in vulnerable young people.”

We have heard so many stories and seen enough miracle cures from various strains of cannabis that we have no difficulty in supporting the legalisation of medical marijuana.

However, recreational marijuana is a different problem - we have also seen the dark side of that.

If a limited amount of recreational marijuana could be purchased over the counter like a bottle of whiskey, it would certainly break up the gangs and the illicit peddling. But employers would have to have severe restrictions on their work force — for example today no one can report for work drunk, nor can there be smoking in a smoke free establishment. So it should be with marijuana.

We recall in the seventies when we discovered that some of our pressmen were heavy marijuana users while operating our large Suburban press that produces over a thousand Tribune pages a minute.

Their reflexes were nil, an accident could have been fatal. Fortunately, our teenage son was home for the summer from his school in England at the time.

He had been well trained in the building and operation of the large press. He recruited two young men from the Out Islands, who had so far been untouched by drugs, and trained them in the operation of the press before it was time for him to return to his studies.

For that period of our history, employees in this department could only remain on our staff if they agreed to regular drug tests at the hospital. They always had to be drug free, because they never knew when we would have them escorted to the hospital.

There are benefits — especially in curbing crime – in the legalisation of recreational marijuana, but unless the penalties are very severe for abuse it will be a constant headache for the business community.

Anyway, the matter is now open for debate.

Comments

Porcupine 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Yes, the matter is open to debate. However, to state that marijuana was what brought this country down from the early seventies, is wholly inaccurate. It was the illicit trade in marijuana that destroyed the "moral fabric" of this country. It was not due to smoking the herb. Just as in the rum running years here, or the cocaine coming out of the south American countries, or the opium coming out of Afghanistan. It's not the drug, it is the high stakes trade in the drug. Please see the forest for the trees. And, I may be wrong, but I think the majority of Bahamians "with a shovel and a bit of earth" aren't looking to get rich. They are welcoming the day when they can smoke a joint in peace without being hauled off to jail, getting a criminal record, having legal and other issues for the rest of their lives, while those who have their much more lethal and socially destructive alcoholic drinks go unscathed. They are looking for parity, for justice. What we fail to look at when having this "debate" is our own conditioning, our own descent into a place, so well described by many prescient authors of long ago, of giving up our freedoms based on fear and lies. This is how marijuana "became" illegal in the first place. Read the history. We would like to believe that we are creating a more free and sensible society as time goes on. Yet, from my perspective, the debates on this issue, as so many others, remain entrenched in the backward, regressive, holy book and untutored fear mentality which seems to be in such favor in today's day and age. In reality, the matter is open for debate, just as it has been for the last 50 years. That this is as far as we've gotten with the marijuana debate doesn't bode well for the hundreds of other pressing issues we must come to terms with. While we are discussing whether a government should have the right to tell us what to smoke, the world is literally melting down around us. People are dying in Japan due to the record heat. We are losing the entire web of life that keeps us alive, we are closer to nuclear holocaust than ever before in the history of mankind, we are succumbing to unprecedented rates of cancer, diabetes, obesity here at home. Yes, we can relish the wholesome, often childish, debate on a natural herb, or we can get serious about the very real issues which threaten to take down the whole of humanity. Let's legalize it and move on to more important issues. Could things really get any worse here by legalizing it? Be serious now.

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DDK 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Great insight Oh Prickly One!

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Bonefishpete 3 months, 3 weeks ago

John Morgan the Orlando attorney that spent millions getting florida medical marijuana passed on the ballot has committed 5 million dollars to put recreational Marijuana on Florida's 2020 ballot. I believe it will pass.

Bahamas should without haste hash this out and decide if they want recreational Marijuana use legal. With Canada passing this summer and other states passing pot legislation Bahamas will be left behind in the tourist trade. Who would want to be dragged off cruise ships to Fox Hill for simply possessing a joint.

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ThisIsOurs 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Hmm..I really wonder, we're not the US. We don't have their population, their controls, their cheap energy. My fear is the industry will dissolve into a legalized drug dealing operation with people openly selling dollar bags on the street corner, no kinds of safety measures or controls...but I admit I could be wrong. I just don't think it's as easy as people are making it out to be and in general I think people refuse to first admit the negative possibilities and second, plan for and mitigate the risks.

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JackArawak 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Like 'This is ours' says - sadly The Bahamas lacks the infrastructure to properly regulate this industry. There is a lot that needs to be done before they can compete with The US on a computerized system of government. On top of that, until the government kicks the christian council out, well, we're going to go nowhere fast, like we've been doing for the past 50 years.

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