Last update: 06-Dec-2013 8:12 am
Friday, December 06, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Much to consider in marijuana debate
The decision to decriminalise marijuana is filled with complexities. From both sides of the fence, their respective answers seem obvious. To the ones in support, it considers the reallocation of resources in the police, prison and judicial system. This would allow for priority to be placed on the numerous unsolved murders in this country, as well as our abysmal criminal conviction rate.
To the ones in dissent, marijuana has been illegal for decades and any leniency associated with it would be believed to broadcast a message of surrender and failure by our authorities. It’ll be one step closer to giving in to the criminal elements that haunt our youth, our streets, our doorsteps.
I teach biology and every time my class crosses the topic of drugs, they see that my slideshow contains a chart that displays dependence vs harm. They always ask me why cannabis is illegal if it’s below nicotine and alcohol in both categories. To which I just jest, “I guess not everybody has seen the chart.”
I also never fail to recall reading about the wildly unsuccessful Alcohol Prohibition era in the United States, and the “Reefer Madness” propaganda phenomenon, engineered by two men called Hearst and Anslinger, that both led up to and followed the marijuana ban in 1937.
I am aware that decriminalisation is not the same as legalisation. The former falls in line with lowering the penalty of marijuana possession and usage to the same level as a traffic violation, or littering. Most teenagers seek to engage themselves in many forms of illicit behaviour and substances. Would reducing the charges of one propagate the fiery shockwaves of rebellion through modern youth that some of us worry about?
It should be stressed that decriminalisation does not equate open access for youth. Parents naturally fear that their child would incur a fine or infraction from marijuana. This seems to be more of a parenting issue, than a drug one, however.
Moreover, what would be the protocol for dealing with trafficking? What happens in our neighbouring countries that have rejected decriminalisation along the interim? Do we inadvertently create a new black market while trying to quell another? Do we have the extra resources to prevent illegal export from happening?
I fully understand that marijuana has been medically proved to have a death count of zero, that its user culture is associated with serenity and relaxation as opposed to fatality and mayhem, and that its prohibition is entrenched in a hasty and irresponsible past. But I also fully understand that it has been an illegal commodity for decades and the criminal clout surrounding it has grown considerably since its ban and also must be accounted for.
Much has to be considered before making this decision. There will have to be more than just signing off a piece of legislature to truly decriminalise it.
K Jared Hosein
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