Student & Resident Citizen
May 8, 2018
All humans are entitled to a life free from stigma, discrimination, intimidation, fear and victimization. Why then, in this enlightened era of human rights, justice and good governance, is cannabis use the target of high-level ridicule?
There was a time when similar morals-based treatment was meted out to persons affected by HIV. Then the National HIV/AIDS Program evangelized a deeper regard for humanity in public and health policy. Conversion led to compassionate service delivery no matter the national origin, sexual orientation, disability and disease.
There are compelling reasons why friends and family use mind-altering substances. Marketing pressure is a factor because handsome profits are derived from selling addiction. However, as the commission on cannabis (Marijuana Commission) should unequivocally report, substance use is largely an act of self-medication.
Why is self-medication so widespread in the Federation? Chemical substances provide relief from emotional and physical trauma such as loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of a roof or threats to the same. Ours is a country with high levels of family-, employment-, and politics-based suffering. Epidemic drug use is directly linked to endemic victimization, exploitation and pain. In the circumstances, holier-than-thou slurring has no place.
Generally, inappropriate use of any substance (natural or man-made) is a hazard to health. All levels of St. Kitts and Nevis society are weighed down by the over-consumption of junk food and sugar sweetened beverages, and by the ill-effects of dependence on alcohol, stimulants and anti-depressants.
The Federation will be better served by non-judgmental communication about benefits and risks of the chemicals found in plants and medicines. Cannabis is part of creation and “the fullness thereof”. The plant cannot be eradicated from the face of Yahweh’s earth. A cannabis-free St. Kitts and Nevis is not possible because of its sacralization by Rastafarianism. Unquestionably, non-spiritual and the non-medicinal use of cannabis is problematic especially for the vulnerable brains of the unborn and youth under the age of 25 years. Notwithstanding, criminalization of spiritual and cultural practices is iniquitous, quixotic and anti-human rights.
Drug use is a public health issue with implications for family functioning, social cohesion, national security and industry. A purely criminal justice/incarceration approach will never work in a substance-demanding world. There is need for comprehensive addiction treatment coupled with maximum effort to protect people against traffickers, predatory marketers and inhaling smoke.
The Federation is ready for human-oriented drug policy. This is suggested by the overwhelming rejection of the most recent demonization and derision of cannabis-affected persons. With the political directorate declaring renewed openness, government behaviour should be more preemptive, forgiving, compassionate and evidence-informed rather than pious, reactive and punitive.
Substance use influences are pervasive and strong. Knowing this, and acknowledging human fragility, bode well for the pursuit of evenhanded drug policy. Consequently, before the next election bell tolls, there should be cannabis-related legislation prescribing, among other things, areas for production and sale, research and innovation, spiritual and medicinal use, and taxation. The signal from Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is already in the affirmative.