The Great Weed Debate

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Citizens need to keep an open mind when it comes to marijuana. Many countries around the world, and even fellow Caribbean nations have already decriminalise this herb, but a lot of us here in Trinidad and Tobago remain stubbornly closed minded. On Tuesday, Attorney General Faris Al Rawi announced that legislation to begin the decriminalisation process is set to come in early 2019. A number of citizens have been campaigning for this for a long time now. Others however criticize it as something that we want to do, simply because other people are doing it. But what merit is there for this stigmatized substance?

The reason marijuana is illegal remains under scrutiny. Many have suggested that is no more harmful than alcohol or tobacco, and was targeted unfairly. According to a 2017 Huffington Post article, it was made illegal in the US in the 1930s, despite the fact that 29 out of 30 scientists consulted by the Government, said it was not harmful. The state argued then, that using this substance made people violent. That has since been justifiably scrutinized and debunked. Marijuana use however does have its pitfalls.

Marijuana smoke poses the same risk to lung health as cigarette smoke, because smoke is smoke and all smoke is bad for respiratory health. However unlike tobacco use, well-designed studies have failed to find an increased risk of lung cancer due to marijuana use.A large scale study led by UCSF and University of Alabama in the US in 2012 also suggested that low to moderate use of marijuana is less harmful to the lungs than exposure to tobacco, even though the two substances contain many of the same components. Heavy use however can be detrimental. More research continues to be conducted, because the facts in this regard remain hazy.

But recreational use aside, the benefits of medicinal marijuana cannot be overlooked. Marijuana is an FDA sanctioned treatment in the US for two rare and severe forms of epilepsy. It is also used to treat a number of conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and Crohn’s disease, to glaucoma, PTSD and multiple sclerosis. This is because of its ability to reduce chronic pain, nausea and vomiting, which are symptomatic of many of the previously mentioned conditions.

T&T may not be ready for recreational marijuana, but medicinal marijuana is long overdue. Our health system isn’t the best, and the availability of pharmaceuticals leaves much to be desired. So to have access to a locally produced treatment would go a long way. Obviously there will be challenges in terms of regulation, but that should be met. Then there’s the matter of taxes to be made, and the impetus it provides for local businesses. It will be a baby step, but one that can bring a lot of benefits.