COMMENTARY: Cannabis – Light Up! Smoke Up! What Message Are We Sending to Our Children

Audley Phillip

I expect to get a lot of licks from publishing this piece.  Still, I hold no rancor or ill will towards any. 

One of Antigua’s worst pieces  of social legislation was passed in parliament recently.   Government amended the laws to decriminalize cannabis,  making it legal to possess up to 15 grams for “personal” use, and allowing a household to grow up to four plants.  I note, with great concern, the silence of the church, civic organizations and other prominent bodies throughout or twin island state.   Government seem to be pandering to the Rastafarian community,  who have long advocated for the decriminalization  of cannabis, as according to them, it is a part of their religious sacrament.

In effect, the Antigua parliament has now made the use of marijuana  socially acceptable, as was stated by the Prime Minister.  Government is on record as saying that marijuana use is  in essence, a part of the culture of the country.   Yet by the same token, the government is saying that they want to make it clear that they are  not advocating the use of cannabis.  Quite ambiguous indeed!   

I want to preface this discussion by saying that in my entire life, I have never smoked nor consumed alcohol.  In fact, I have never had as much as a bottle of beer.

Government recently stated that due to the growing effects of social diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure,  that they will soon  place a tax on sugary drinks in an effort to get its citizens to buy local or to use more healthy drinks as this would then put less burden on the government on treating those diseases that comes about due to our unhealthy eating and drinking habits.   Point taken!

But then the Government in the same vain, passes legislation to allow all and sundry to smoke as if smoking or an increase in smoking would not put unnecessary strain and burden on Government in treating smokers with smoke related illnesses.   What a dilemma!  The Government gave as its  main reason for passing the amendment,  is to prevent young users from getting a criminal record.  It also spoke about plans to have an education campaign to sensitize individuals, particularly young people,  about the adverse effects of  marijuana.  So we open the flood gates for all including children to smoke before the said educational campaign.  Sad indeed! 

What happens if a youngster is caught with 15 grams of marijuana at school?   What is the educational policy surrounding the use of and the carrying of marijuana on the school compound?  Were the police intricately involved in the drafting of the legislation and did the legislators seek their input on the way forward?

Using marijuana for medicinal purposes is far different than the wide spread use of recreational marijuana as is common in Antigua.  I would agree that there might be some good in medicinal  marijuana in the treatment of certain chronic illnesses but I think that too many persons are misguided, simply because they want the freedom to lite up and smoke wherever and whenever they want. 

Many seem to think that compared to other drugs, marijuana is less dangerous. People use marijuana by smoking it in pipes or rolled in papers, by inhaling it via a vaporizer, or by mixing it into food and eating or drinking it. Smoking marijuana results in THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol)  entering the bloodstream swiftly, where it moves throughout the body. When smoked, marijuana can cause many of the same health problems associated with smoking cigarettes, such as mouth, throat, and lung damage. When ingesting marijuana, the effects of THC are slower than when smoking it. In the short term, the high from marijuana results in changes to your perception and sense of time, mood changes, impaired coordination, memory lapses, and problems with cognitive processes.

 Marijuana effects are not always consistent. Sometimes, the high feels happy and euphoric, but other times, it may lead a user to feel frightened and paranoid. Over the long term, researchers are speculating that marijuana impairs cognitive function and memory, interfering with the way the brain carries out these processes. These negative impacts may even be permanent with regular use of marijuana. Repeated marijuana use can also lead to addiction in much the same way that people become addicted to alcohol and other drugs.

 I am worried that greater accessibility of marijuana would  lead to more use. It’s also likely that marketing of marijuana would include children and teenagers, which would lead to more young people using the drug. Youth using marijuana could lead to higher incidences of abuse and addiction. Evidence also points to marijuana’s correlation with mental illnesses such as psychoses and schizophrenia. Children who begin using marijuana may have reduced IQs when compared to young people who don’t use it. Furthermore, the marijuana available today is a vastly different drug than what was available in decades past. THC levels are much higher in marijuana circulating currently, which makes it potentially more damaging to the brain and more addictive.

I am of the view  that this legislation was wrong, untimely and dangerous and sets a wrong and dangerous precedent for  our children. By way of passing this bill, Government is encouraging marijuana use  and opening the gates for the commercialization and sale of cannabis on a wide scale throughout this nation.  I cringe to think of what will become of our young people.

The police and Education officials will have a task on their hands, you take my word…..just watch, wait and see.

Audley Phillip is a veteran Sales and  Customer Service Specialist having worked in the telecommunications sector for well over 25 years.  He is now a freelance writer as well as  a news and current affairs analyst.
The views expressed are my own and I welcome your feedback on:  [email protected]

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  1. All i will say about this commentary is that the writer is missing one thing(ie) Marijuana is a Plant like any other,what someone chooses to do with the Soursop Tree in his backward is no one’s business,same way what a person chooses to do with Cannabis is no one’s business either. I think the church’s has more to concentrate on than concentrating on a Plant which the Almighty created..

  2. A lot of police and education officials to do have a couple marijuana plants planted in their backyard. I believed that my son is suffering from a mental illness called ‘Schizophrenia’. He is a strong marijuana smoker and alcohol drinker. His behavior pattern had lead me to this result. I had taken him a few time to see a psychologist when he was 15 years old but he was never diagnosed. As he got older his behavior has worsen. I have always believed that any plants the Almighty God created are for healing medicine and it should either be eaten or brew into tea and drink, not for smoking.

  3. I find this column very bias. First of all, you have never used cannabis so you did a lot of reseach but your research is obviously biased. Because you presented an argument against cannabis using phrases like researchers SPECULATE!!! If you are going to write a column against something you should use cold hard facts! So, if you had simply researched cannabis use in general you would find the benefits far out weigh the side effects. The cold hard facts are, everyday, scientists are finding new benefits to cannabis use while the list of dangers related to cannabis use remain the same. For example, a recent publication by the Oxford University Press, highlighted that recent research has PROVEN regular use of cannabis substantially reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later on in life. That is a scientifically proven fact not speculation by someone who has yet to prove their hypothesis.

    Secondly, when the legislation came up for discussion, the prime minister stated that although the government is moving towards decriminalization of cannabis, they do not advocate smoking it. Their hope was that the public would find healthier ways to use cannabis. There are even laws passed to ban public smoking so when you see someone smoking in public, this not a reason to argue for cannabis to be criminalized, its an opportunity to argue why the police aren’t doing their jobs. It’s also worth noting that people use to publicly smoke cannabis long before the decriminalization of it.

    Finally, you cannot blame the decriminalization of cannabis for kids having it. That is called bad parenting…. I am very pro cannabis, but if my 15 year old was found at school with cannabis this means I failed as a parent. There are things in the world which should be for adults only; alcohol, cannabis and sex to name a few. Keeping children away from these things is the job of the parents not the government. Should the government make it illegal for adults to have sex just because bad parents can’t keep their teenage kids from having sex? Should alcohol be illegal because bad parents cannot stop their teenage kids from consuming alcohol? A grewing trend in young people worldwide is sizzurp(mixture cough syrup and soda), an extremely addictive drink used to get a high feeling. Should the government make cough syrup illegal so the public cannot self medicate when they have a cough? No, parents need to educated on why children should not use cannabis and if their children are found with cannabis, the parent should fined or jailed.

    I urge you and other persons like you that grew up in an era where you were constantly lied to about the dangers of cannabis, which has lead you to be completely against the use of cannabis, to do unbias research. You find that most things your parents and society told you about cannabis is actually scientifically proven to be a lie; you may even find that there is something cannabis can medically help you with.

  4. Please, I would like for anyone to prove to me that SMOKING anything, marijuana included is good for you. Again I think that most marijuana users who read my piece and argued blissfully missed the point. I never said that marijuana might not have properties that is good in treating certain illnesses. Actually studies were done and they are continuing and it highlighted that medical marijuana can be helpful in the treatment of certain ailments. 99.9 percent of the people in these parts who uses marijuana, smoke it for recreational purposes. Smoking anything is bad for you and smoking marijuana can bring about the same health problems that are associated with the smoking of cigarettes. I find it hard that anyone would want to justify the silly intake of any form of SMOKE into the body, whether it be from cigarette or marijuana. The body is not a chimney. All those persons who smoke…….you are destroying your brain and lungs and setting yourself up for major health problems.

    Finally, because I have never smoked, many are of the view that I cannot and should not talk about the potential risks from smoking. Pure rubbish! I read and study this topic extensively.

    Show me where and how SMOKING marijuana is good for you….I challenge anyone!

    • Sir, with all due respect you arr advocating that decriminalization was wrong. This is the error in you argument. Rather, you should argue that there is a lack of education and support to deter the abuse and misuse of the plant. Otherwise, you would simply be saying that we should go back to arresting and locking people up for the use of this plant which has probably more devastating effects. So, please be sure to reframe your argument carefully, then you may gain better traction with the audience. The goal is to educate, not prosecute. Thank you sir.

  5. Smoking is bad for you, hence the reason I constantly said “use of cannabis”….. I do not believe smoking anything is good for you. For you say that is should not be decriminalized because you do not agree with the way some people use it is foolish. Frying any food is bad for you, does that mean fried food should be banned? Cannabis is no different. It has real benefits but if some people choose to use it in an unhealthy way, does that mean no one should be allowed to use it at all?

    Now as for recreational use, there are benefits to recreational use such as decreased risk of cancer (all except lung), decrease risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and reduce risk of getting a seizure. So if people want to use it recreationally and reduce the risk of these ailments, why do you have an issue? Again, you quickly mention health benefits like they do not deserve to be mentioned but you keep mentioning smoke is bad and even mention cigarettes. WE KNOW SMOKE IS BAD, so if this is your only arguement you might as well write a column on Soda because the sugar in soda is worst than smoking cannabis. The difference is soda has never stopped an eight year kid from having 200 seizures per day, soda has never stopped the growth of cancerous cells and drinking soda daily does not help to reduce the risk developing Alzheimer’s. Only cannabis does all of the above. So I thing your next column should be on cigarettes, sugary drinks or fried foods, all of which are legal, bad for you and have no health benefits.

  6. Its simple, to Educate is better than to prosecute. The only law that changes is that people are no longer dragged to 1735 for a plant. Last time I checked, serving time at 1735 is not doing anybody any favors. Jail full up. Its now our responsibility to educate and enlighten the younger ones to not abuse this plant. Here is my point, you all have kids. Would you rather teach them or let the law and courts teach them? Exactly, nobody turning in their son or daughter foe smoking weed. Hence, the legislation was correct, we shoukd not prosecute casual users. Because their mommy, daddy brother sister and cousin who care about them the most was not turning rhem in anyway. Hence, the law is not a loving deterant in this case nor is it suitable. Teach your kids.

    • I agree with you education is the key but there are a lot persons who are not willing to be educated on this topic simply because they are stubborn and set in old time ways and beliefs. Blaming the decriminalization for what could happen to kids is just shifting blame. The real issue is that the public lacks education on cannabis and I believe that even if education was provided some persons would still not be interested; because they believe what they were told 10-15 years ago is all they need to know.

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