Pubdate: Sun, 27 Nov 2005
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2005 The Gleaner Company Limited
Cited: the National Commission on Ganja report
Bookmark: (Ganja)
Bookmark: (Opinion)


The scientific debate in Jamaica about the dangers of marijuana use is
often obfuscated by a subtle cultural bias based in part on a support
of Rastafarians who claim that the herb is a sacramental part of their
religious practice, but also by years of its use in folk medicine.

Now comes Dr. Winston De La Haye, director of the detoxification unit
at the University Hospital of the West Indies and president of the
Psychiatry Association of Jamaica, who believes that the use of ganja
may well be a major contributing cause to the level of crime and
violence in the society.

Dr. De La Haye points out that marijuana contains tetrahydro
cannabinol which has been proven to exacerbate aggressive behaviour.
If this is so, and given the wide use of ganja in Jamaica, the
doctor's warning certainly deserves serious consideration and further
objective assessment.

He contends that the drug can drive a person mad and, with
understandable prudence, asks: Why take a chance?

We note that Professor Fred Hickling, another respected expert, while
not disagreeing with Dr. De La Haye's bottom line warning about the
dangers of using the drug, defuses the argument by listing a number of
other social causes of violence such as poverty and despair, a
position that can readily be conceded without in any way detracting
from what might be a significant breakthrough in lessening the degree
of violence in Jamaica.

Other causes of violence there may well be, but if smoking ganja is
like throwing gasolene on smouldering coals, the unequivocal
condemnation of its use may be worth trying, backed up with a strong
public education campaign to bring home to the populace, especially
the youngsters, that by smoking ganja, they may be playing with fire
in more ways than one.

This suggestion runs counter to the present popular attitude that the
use of ganja should be decriminalised, supported by the
recommendations of the National Commission on Ganja which was set up
in November 2000.

But in light of Dr. De La Haye's pronouncement, a renewed debate about
marijuana use would seem to be in order, one that is non-emotional and
focused, not on the general question of whether marijuana is good or
bad, but whether it is indeed a contributory cause to violent behaviour.

Certainly there has developed in Jamaica an almost knee-jerk violent
reaction to 'dissing' or other relatively minor provocations which
needs some explanation. Dr. De La Haye has provided one such possible
reason and we think his warning should be heeded. 
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