Pubdate: Tue, 15 Jan 2008
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2008 The Gleaner Company Limited
Author: Setphen Smith


The Editor, Sir:

I read the opinion of Dr. St. Aubyn Bartlett and while I respect his 
opinion, feel it necessary to disagree with the severity of his 
conclusions. Ganja or weed, as it is commonly called, absolutely does 
have the negative effect of lethargy and seems to interfere with the 
ambitions of young people who use the herb excessively. This being 
said, we have to examine the big picture as there are several factors 
that come to bear with the herb's ability to achieve the following:

1) Gainfully employed young people who need a paycheck do not seem to 
be as affected as the unemployed and hopeless (as in lack of real 
hope for gainful occupation or training).

2) The continued ludicrous criminalisation of use of a naturally 
occurring plant psychologically drives youth to the side of rebellion 
given existing frustration with society's inadequate response to their needs.

3) Weed, despite being punishable by law, does far less damage to 
society than alcohol whose acceptance remains as a result of its 
taxability and greater use by the 'higher' levels of our society. 
After all, ministers and MPs don't sit around and smoke weed, they 
smoke fine cigars and drink single-malt scotch.

4) The high (or 'focus') easily achieved by $50 worth of weed is only 
matched by a $200+ expenditure on alcohol in most people and recovery 
to function effectively is far more efficient from the former.

5) Weed will be overly attractive to the young as long as it is 
identified as illegal, radical and rebellious, thus the removal of 
those connotations will effectively reduce the use of ganja by the 
most susceptible.

I believe the time is here for all of us to take a serious look at 
the challenges faced by the country and what can and cannot be 
changed in the Jamaican society.

The biggest challenge we face today is crime and in much the same 
manner and tone that our police commissioner announced the possible 
closing of some police substations in order to concentrate effort to 
the real task at hand, I strongly suggest we stop wasting the time of 
the police and the courts with the persecution of ganja smoking.

The perception that if ganja is legalised, America will 'cut us off', 
needs to change. America either is already bigger than that or needs 
to grow up. America is recognising that it has already lost its 'war 
on drugs' and intelligent people worldwide know that the drugs we 
need to worry about are prescription drugs that our needy cannot 
afford and that kill us a little quicker anyway.

Ganja, weed, marijuana, cannabis or herb needs to be recognised, if 
not embraced, as a part of the fabric of Jamaican life. All the 
prosecution and persecution in the world will not stop or even stem its use.

This herb has fantastic curative properties but we focus on the small 
detrimental effect it has on the young while denying our own failures 
and that of our Government to provide hope and opportunity for the 
said young people.

We are on the cusp of a new day in Jamaica and I hope that the whole 
ganja situation will be favourably revisited.

I am, etc.,


Black River, St. Elizabeth
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom