A Case for the Legalization of Medical Marijuana

It is argued that the continued criminalization of marijuana has caused more harm to the youths of Guyana than the ultimate purpose of criminalization; which is deterrence. A recent study by the UN found that unemployment among young Guyanese is at a staggering 41% of the youthful sector. For some social commentators, unemployment coupled with the high number of single parent led homes, has resulted in many young persons, especially males between the ages 14-25 to turning to illicit drugs such as marijuana as a source of comfort and escape from the many hardships facing such family   settings. In Guyana, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic substances (control) Act makes provision prohibiting the use marijuana. The scientific name for marijuana is Cannabis Sativa. In English speaking Caribbean idiosyncrasies Ganja or split. The marijuana is  derived from one of the main chemical components of marijuana THC. Even though it is only 20% of the marijuana plant, THC is said to possess the potent capability to give users the 'high' that they crave.

Additionally, CBD is another chemical found in the marijuana plant. This component lacks the capability to inflict the potent effect on users as THC. This chemical rather is used by herbalist and in varying cultures across the World and Caribbean to treat an array of illnesses including: the common cold, hypertension, diabetes, asthma and even HIV.

Proponents for the legalization of marijuana has since espoused empirical evidence in support of the claim that marijuana does more good than harm to the human body. As old as 1973, Dr Donald Tashkin, a lung expert by calling and Professor of medicine at UCLA, informed a team which studied the effect of marijuana on the bronchi of healthy and asthmatic patients. The results were overwhelming. Their findings were published in the New England Journal of medicine. It was found that the airways of both healthy and asthmatic individuals widened after consuming marijuana.

 Marijuana has many healing and treatment benefits. However, its usage and recognition in the medical system as a hold is believed to be hindered by special interest groups representing large pharmaceutical companies and Governments who see it as a threat to social stability and their economic and political agenda.

 Guyana in 1989 passed in parliament the Narcotics Drug and psycho substance (control) Act. The Act provides that it is illegal for a person to be in possession of five (5) grams of marijuana. The reality of Guyana is such that 4 out of every 10 males between the ages 18-25 have either been in jail or are in jail. Their sentences may run for a period of no less than two years.

Social commentators relying on sociological backings argue that criminal behaviours are learned. They posit that young men are being jailed for the use and or possession of small amounts of marijuana. While in the prison system, these young men either by participation of observation learn behaviours that are considered socially unacceptable. This learning may either be formal through organised gangs which develop their nexus and purpose from the Halls of the prisons or through informal means such as observation of deviant behaviours.

It is a well-known fact that the Guyana Prison Service lacks adequate and well managed rehabilitation programmes. This may be due to a lack of investment in infrastructure or Human resource development in this field. Such reality has led to many concluding that our law and criminal justice system has done nothing more than unconsciously educate a generation of criminals. We must not treat with the issue of the decriminalization of marijuana too lightly for the Guyana Police force may have arrest and prosecute the Barack Obama of Guyana. If one can recall, the Senator Obama admitted to the use of weed while in college. That perhaps was a mistake to him or a privileged moment. Whatever it was it did not deter him or prevent him from become the President of the United States. What if young Obama was arrested and sentenced? What if he was sent to prison to live and dwell among hard core criminals where serving sentences for attempted murder, armed robbery, trafficking, rape and sexual assault? Would he have still had that the chance of succeeding through college and rising to serve his society?

It is important that our criminal justice system be revamp to ensure that justice is not only perceived to be done but seen as done. We are unconsciously or consciously sending our young men and women to a school (prison) that teaches them the art of CRIME – it is said that some of the best legal minds are in prison and with an unofficial Degree in Criminology the chances of a convicted criminal going back to jail after being release is far higher than him/her finding a job.

Then there is the problem of legal representation to those charged. Some Accused persons are often faced with harsh economic circumstances. On many occasions the Magistrates will ask, “Mr T where is your lawyer.” In response with head bow, the Accused often times respond, “Meh Worship, ah don’t have a lahya [lawyer].” Legal representation under the Constitution is a primordial right often times infringed at the summary level when person are charged with marijuana possession. Those falling into this bracket are often times the vendors of the illicit drug who sells the product to support their family.

Reform of the law must at all times be in response to local circumstances. Is this the time for Guyana to reform its laws relating to the prohibition of use of marijuana? Should the change be limited to medical purposes only or should cultural and recreational purposes be included in the reform?

W. Ackloo Phd (Annalist)

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Industrial Hemp Should Be The Next
Economic Venture At Wales Estate –Ras Leon Saul.

With the announcement by Government of its intention to close the over one hundred year old Wales sugar estate at the end of 2016, general secretary of the Healing the Nation Theocracy Party(HNTP) wants the lands at the estate to be use for Hemp cultivation.

Hemp, also called industrial hemp refers to the non-psychoactive (less than 1% THC) varieties of Cannabis Sativa. Both hemp and marijuana come from the same cannabis species, but are genetically distinct and are further distinguished by use, chemical makeup, and cultivation methods. Hemp can be grown as a renewable source for raw materials that can be incorporated into thousands of products. Its seeds and flowers are used in health foods, organic body care, and other nutraceuticals. Ras leon Saul Hemp fibers and stalks are used in clothing, constructions materials, paper, biofuel, plastic composites, and more. Hemp can do a lot, but it can’t get you “high.” Because hemp varieties contain virtually zero tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), your body processes it faster than you can smoke it. Trying to use hemp to put you on cloud nine will only put you in bed with a migraine. It is also very economical to cultivate since it does not require any chemical or large supply watering to grow.stabroek-market

Moreover, he is calling for the decriminalization of marijuana and the immediate halt to the harsh prison sentences meted out to persons found with small amounts of ganja.

In Guyana a person found with one gram of marijuana can be imprison for up to three years and fine thousands of dollars by a magistrate. On the other hand, a persons can drive his car recklessly on the road and kill someone, go before that same magistrate tomorrow and be granted bail.

Is this the time for Guyana to reform its laws relating to the prohibition of use of marijuana?.....READ MORE