Category: MNI View Created on Wednesday, 09 February 2011 21:50
All West Indians smoke weed. Every single one of them. You could not have grown up in the West Indies without having smoked the stuff, right?
Wrong! But that’s what people seem to think about us. Nobody believes that I have never tried marijuana in my life. I have been exposed to it all my life. As a child, my Rastafarian neighbour grew it, cured it, and smoked it in plain sight. As a teenager we even had a few plants in my aunt’s garden. (If she finds out about this I will deny it to the very end.) In college, I was around so much of the stuff I might have gotten a contact high on several occasion. (If my mother find’s out I’m going to deny it). But never has the stuff passed my lips. I’ve never inhaled it.
And here’s why: My mother told me that if she caught me smoking she would put my neck on a rock and chop my head off with a cutlass. I don’t think she meant it literally but I was not going to test her. Even after mortal fear of my mother subsided I still had neither incentive nor desire to smoke weed. In fact I’ve had safety sensitive jobs all my life that prohibited the use of marijuana, along with other drugs.
Oh yeah, there’s another reason. Marijuana is a drug. And it is illegal. Yes, contrary to the beliefs of many tourists, marijuana, although easily available, is illegal in every single Caribbean country. It may be easily available but it is illegal and possession may come with a fine or some jail time.
There have been crusades to legalize ganja for several decades. And there have been several different reasons for legalization. The medical benefits have been well documented. It is now generally accepted that the use of medical marijuana is beneficial in the treatment of nausea and pain in patients with cancer, AIDS and other deadly diseases. It has also been cited as a treatment for glaucoma.
Another argument is that legalization would remove the criminal element associated with the production, transportation, and sale of the drug. Resources that are being used in the fight against drugs can be diverted to more serious offenses.
What about religion? Rastafarians claim that the criminalization of ganja infringes on their rights to religious freedom. Smoking, many claim, is a sacrifice to God. They claim that they are often persecuted for simply exercising their religious right. It is said that ganja opens up another level of consciousness, elevating the senses and enhancing creativity.
Then there is the economic effect. If marijuana was sold legally, it could be regulated and taxed by the government thus bringing in much needed revenue. How about tourism? I am sure that half of the visitors to Amsterdam have one thing on their mind. I would venture that the first Caribbean country to declare the use of marijuana for recreational use to be totally legal will encounter an immediate influx of tourists looking for a different type of vacation experience. Of course most of these would be potheads looking for a good time. But I guess you take the good with the bad.
I am not advocating the legalization of marijuana. As a matter of fact if I ever find out that my son is smoking weed, I would place his neck on a rock and chop his head off with a cutlass. (Someone please tell him I said that.) I am just saying that it is coming. Medical marijuana is legal in fifteen U.S. states, Canada, and five European countries. Many have decriminalized for non-medical use in some form or the other. An effort to legalize it for personal use (Proposition 19) actually made it on the ballot in California this past November but was narrowly defeated. For sure it’s coming soon. And as goes the United States and Canada, so goes the Caribbean.
I hearrejoicing. I hear the Christian Council protesting and I hear parents growing more concerned about another drug being made readily available to their children.
Who knows? At one time people thought that the legalization of alcohol was going to bring about the end of normal society. But here we are.
By the way; I have never smoked weed.
Editor-in-Chief's Note: Theo Semper is MNI Alive's North American Associate Editor
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