EDITOR, The Tribune.
Today in The Bahamas and in countries throughout the Caribbean and around the world, the marijuana debate rages on!
Many countries, including The Bahamas, are actively looking at their position and trying to formulate policies and laws, as it relates to marijuana legalisation.
This is a very exciting time in history, but also a time where we have to tread very carefully and cautiously, so that we do not regret whatever decisions that are made as a country concerning the marijuana issue at hand.
Let me emphatically say from the onset that as a Physician specifically a Paediatrician, I am against the legalisation of recreational marijuana in The Bahamas.
My strong position on this matter stems from the well known deleterious effects of marijuana on the developing brain.
As a Paediatrician, I am involved with the care of adolescents daily. This is the group in our society that we have to consider and protect as we debate the marijuana issue at hand.
The use of marijuana, alcohol, and other drugs is often seen in this group and it is consistent with the risk taking behaviors that characterise this period of development. This period is also known for risky sexual behaviours. An increase rate of accidents also characterise this period.
It has been proven scientifically without any doubt that frequent marijuana use damages the brains of teenagers and young adults.
The brain is actively growing and developing from birth, through infancy, through childhood, through adolescent and well into mid-twenties before the brain is fully developed.
During the time the brain is growing and developing it is very vulnerable to injury from chemicals such as marijuana, alcohol and other drugs and toxins.
Dr Krista Lisdahl, a director of the brain imaging and neuropsychology lab at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee stated that “It needs to be emphasised that regular cannabis (marijuana) use which we consider once per week, is not safe and may result in addiction and neurocognitive damage.”
Psychologists have also documented cognitive decline, poor attention and memory along with diminished IQ among adolescents who use marijuana regularly.
There is also research evidence that has linked frequent use of high levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical that is responsible for the “high” effects that marijuana users seek, to depression, anxiety, and psychosis.
In The Bahamas today the national average in education is somewhere around a “D”. As a country we are spending a large percentage of our GDP on education and many efforts in Educational circles are being made to improve this average. Legalising recreational marijuana will definitely worsen this already low average.
A study in the Journal of Neuroscience also showed that even a one or two time use of marijuana in teens can result in demonstrative brain injury that may have a lifetime effect.
This further highlights how very important it is that marijuana is not made readily available, through legalising recreational use in The Bahamas. We cannot risk our nation’s future when it comes to this issue. We cannot gamble with our children’s future. Our nation’s children are our most valuable asset.
While I am against recreational marijuana legalisation, I am quite aware of the fact that marijuana has shown considerable promise for treating medical conditions, including pain, Seizures, nausea from chemotherapy and many other medical benefits. These benefits are thought to come from the cannabidiol or CBD a chemical component of the marijuana plant. CBD does not cause the “high” that THC causes. I support the medical use of marijuana only.
In the Tuesday, May 28, 2019 edition of the Freeport news an article states” Barbados approves importation of medical Cannabis”
The article went on to state that “the drugs will be imported by the Barbados drug service.” The information was disseminated by Barbados minister of health at a training seminar for health care providers on the therapeutic prescribing of medical marijuana products the article went on to explain.
I believe this is the best way for The Bahamas to go. Control the drug and educate Medical professionals for appropriate prescribing practices.
No to the legalising of recreational marijuana because of the risk to our young citizens and yes to highly controlled and regulated importation and distribution of marijuana medical products. These products should be prescribed by licensed medical practitioners only and imported by licensed drug agencies only.
There is a lot at stake here. Our policy makers ought to have learnt from the mistakes made from legalising gambling in the Bahamas and avoid the pitfalls that came with its legalisation.
While those is the financial sectors may argue that there is a lot of income to be gained from recreational marijuana legalisation, let us remember that no amount of money is worth risking the future of the youth of this country.
Let’s not make the same mistakes with the marijuana issue as we did with the gambling issue.
DR WILFRED FERGUSON
June 5, 2019.