Marijuana, another promise of high life?
Disclaimer. I have never used the products of the marijuana plant, and I have no intention of doing so. Every baptized Seventh-day Adventist takes the vow not to use, manufacture or sell tobacco, alcohol, or any other narcotic. However, in this article I am advancing the thesis that while as a society we seek consensus and the common good, the freedom of the individual must be respected.
Some of us will recall from history the “Prohibition Laws” that preceded the legalization of alcohol. Society must be careful that it does not create by its laws criminals of its people who have neither the intent nor inclination towards criminality. Each individual must take a stand on what she/he will allow or do and be tolerant of persons who make choices that are different. At the same time, as a society our laws must protect the vulnerable. In this article I am advancing four reasons why I support the decriminalization of marijuana in SVG and at the same time challenging the idea of its cultivation as a “game changer”.
1. Precedence, and equality before the law: Firstly, no one in SVG goes to prison for the production and processing of tobacco or sugar-cane from which alcohol is obtained. Why should it be different for marijuana, when the out-come of their use is similar: their destructive effects on the human body? Secondly, while we are not obliged to follow whatever others do, nevertheless we can copy the good. Some countries, including some in the Caribbean, have taken the steps or are in the process of decriminalizing marijuana. I am sure that we have access to their documents which present their reasons for so doing.
2. Positive Environmental Impact: The environmental degradation that is occurring on the interior mountainous slopes of our small and very fragile country is crying out for amelioration. A trek across the interior from Rose Hall to South Rivers in 2007 revealed 5 and 7 acre blocks of forests cleared for marijuana cultivation. What we laugh about and shrug our shoulders over now will come to haunt us with even more ferocity than in 2010 and 2013. Decriminalizing marijuana will allow for its cultivation as any other plant in the open and then without fear or favour we can pursue the enforcement of the law that prohibits cultivation above the 1000-foot contour. There is currently an abundance of suitable land for any agricultural activity without compromising our forest reserves.
3. Demographic considerations: SVG has lost and is losing too many of its young men to the prison and mental health systems because of this plant. Can our small population sustain this haemorrhaging?
4. The Socio-economic factors: Currently, the returns on the production, use and sale of marijuana is part of the underground economy: not accounted for, but the visible evidence is glaring in the improved community housing, motor vehicles, etc. But it is this same “stealth” that provides the fuel for the associated violence and other criminal activities beyond the boundaries of production. Decriminalization will bring everything in from the cold.
Marijuana as a “game changer”! Our history is replete with the search for “the game changer”. The Europeans were in search of it when they happened upon these islands in the late 1400s. Gold was the goal, and a route to the goldmines of Eastern spices.
When some of the Europeans finally decided to settle in the islands tobacco was the game-changer; that did not deliver, so they switched to cotton, no delivery still; then came the big one – sugarcane. A game-changer indeed! Its cultivation and processing resulted in the revolutionary changes in the demographic, socio-economic and political landscape of the world – Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, North and South America and Asia. But who made the money, at what price, and at whose expense?
In SVG, sugarcane gave way to arrowroot, and the last potential game-changer, bananas “green-gold”, became tarnished. Now we have come full circle, back to a narcotic plant, “marijuana for medicinal purposes”. Still searching for that “tree of life” are we?
Our economic development will be greatly enhanced when we put to maximum use the resources of all our people, land and seas: no single man or crop will change the game.
Conclusion: It is my considered opinion that marijuana should be decriminalized for the four reasons I advanced above: precedence and equal treatment with other harmful substances, the positive environmental impact when its cultivation doesn’t have to be clandestine; demographic shift in the prison and mental hospital youthful male population; an enhanced socio-economic climate. Who has more to lose by the decriminalization of marijuana? (1) The State who created and enforces the law, and (2) those who are hired to defend transgressors of the law. Who stands to benefit? – the whole society.