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It’s high time

Sunday, January 19, 2014

“The economic and social consequences of incarcerating large numbers of our youths for possession and or consumption of small amounts of drugs are immense. Moreover, it is now appearing that the consensus about many of the assumptions about the effects of marijuana in particular is unravelling.”
—Chief Justice Ivor Archie



Any attempt at seeking a solution to our endemic crime problem must include a debate on the decriminalisation or even legalisation of marijuana use. The Chief Justice may have intended to spark such a debate when he made his remarks last September at the opening of the Law Term, but with elections on the horizon, no party, it seemed, was willing to engage the issue. They may need to, if we are to get a handle on crime.


Significant law-enforcement resources are taken up in the fight against crime and in the pursuit and prosecution of marijuana offences. Although there is evidence to show that alcohol and tobacco, which are no less harmful, are in much greater prevalence locally and raise greater public-health issues, we continue to burden the courts and the law-enforcement apparatus with an unwinnable war against marijuana use.


I once remarked at a weekly newsroom meeting at a daily newspaper that I had never smoked marijuana and had never even held a joint or been tempted to do so. Most of the people I knew, outside of the media, had never done so either. The remark was met with a mixture of consternation and incredulity, with one reporter telling me flatly he believed I was lying. Several studies show, however, that the use of marijuana is not as prevalent in T&T as policymakers and the media seem to think it is.