Pubdate: Wed, 18 May 2005
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2005 The Gleaner Company Limited
Author: Wendel Abel
Note: Dr. Wendel Abel is a consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer, 
University of the West Indies
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)

'It Mek Me Work Harder'


GANJA IS the Indian word for cannabis, known also as marijuana, pot,
weed and by over 200 other slang terms. It is derived from the hemp
plant Cannabis Sativa which has been known and used by mankind for
centuries. It was introduced into Jamaica by East Indians about 1845.
Ganja contains 400 known chemical substances, of these 400 chemicals
only 70 are unique to the cannabis plant. These 70 chemicals are
referred to as cannabinoids. Delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinoids (THC) is
the main active ingredient in ganja.

Why Is Ganja Used?

Ganja is widely used in religious practices among some Hindu groups in
India and this may have influence practice here in Jamaica. The
Rastafarians use it for religious ceremonial purposes. It is also used
for social recreational purposes and is a drug of choice in mass
gatherings such as political rallies and music festivals in Jamaica.

The drug is also used during physical labour. Rubin and Comitas noted
that farmers and labourers in Jamaica reported that they are able to
work harder. " It mek me I work like di holy hell. I get a stronger
sensation towards mi work, more dan when I doan have it."

Is Ganja Useful?

Ganja is used as a medicinal agent by the Chinese, Indians, the Arabs
and in Africa. Prior to the introduction of the marihuana tax act of
1937, it was widely used in medicine between 1850 and 1937 with 28
approved preparations containing marijuana on the market in the U.S.A..

Today it is used to treat conditions such as asthma, glaucoma, pains,
nausea, vomiting and epilepsy. It is reported to reduce the symptoms
of mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. Ethical
pharmaceutical agents have been developed in Jamaica from the plant
such as Canasol to treat glaucoma and Asmasol to treat asthma. Marinol
was developed in the U.S.A. for the treatment of nausea and vomiting
and to promote weight gain.

How Widespread Is Its Use in Jamaica?

Ganja is the third most widely used recreational drug in Jamaica. 27
per cent of the secondary school population surveyed in 1997 admitted
to ever using cannabis and 10 per cent admitted to using it in the
past thirty days. The use of alcohol and cigarettes is higher two
drugs which are legal and having far more harmful consequences.

Do Jamaicans Believe It's Harmful?

Studies done in Jamaica consistently report that ganja is widely
accepted in Jamaica. Melanie Dreher reported in 1984 that 50 per cent
of the Jamaicans thought the consumption of ganja was not serious. In
1972, Vera Rubin and Lambert Comitas reported that 60 per cent of
males were users in one rural community.

Is Ganja Harmful?

Studies have shown that ganja is associated with short term memory
impairment and psychomotor retardation and may affect the performance
of persons who perform demanding jobs such as pilots and operators of
heavy transports. The major significance to road safety may be that it
worsens the effects of alcohol on the performance of drivers. The long
term use of ganja increases the risk of lung diseases such as chronic
bronchitis and lung cancer.

Ganja and Mental Disorders?

This is a controversial area. Research have shown that ganja produces
acute psychotic symptoms such as hallucination and delusions. There is
mixed support for the hypothesis that by itself it causes mental
disorders. There is reasonable evidence however that it may worsen
mental disorders such as schizophrenia

Has Legislation Reduced Ganja Use in Jamaica?

In 1941 Jamaica has had some of the harshest legislation against the
use of ganja, 18 months imprisonment for possession. Despite these
harsh legislation the use never declined resulting in more liberals
laws in the 1970s. On the other hand there has been no increase in use
with the removal of criminal prohibitions in countries such as Holland.

Time for a Pragmatic Approach?

There are established useful effects of ganja and while there are
negative effects these are not as impressive as those associated with
alcohol. Legislations have clearly not reduced use in Jamaica. We need
to take a more pragmatic approach to decriminalise the use for private
and personal use and at the same time ensure that we have a properly
formulated educated programme to inform our young people about the
harmful effects of the drug so that they can make informed decisions.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake