By Raffique Shah
March 13, 2017
Many friends, relatives, even family members seem intent on having me “make ah jail” in my winter years: they are pleading with me to use marijuana! It’s not that they want to see me in a ganja-stupor or they will take delight in seeing armed cops swoop down on the geezer and whisk me off to some dank, putrid cell.
No. They want me to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, specifically, to reduce, probably eliminate, the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) with which I have been afflicted for at least five years. Like me, they have watched videos and read of studies and trials conducted by scientists on the use of cannabis in successfully treating PD patients.
The irony of it all, and maybe the funny side, is when earlier in my life I smoked ganja recreationally, I didn’t think it had any medical use. The sole purpose then was to induce a “cool high” and a good night’s sleep. I’d make an educated guess that at least one-third of my generation, men and women of all class-strata, experimented with ganja. Many of them used it recreationally, a few abused it, and fewer still degenerated to using addictive narcotics like cocaine.
Ganja did not detract me from my work, my responsibilities or my goals. When I decided to stop using it, I just quit. I never smoked in public, in the presence of family, especially children and elders, or others who would be offended or exposed to the long arm of the law by my actions.
I have always believed, though, that the possession and personal use of small amounts of ganja should be legalised, not just decriminalised. It is not without irony that alcohol, which has destroyed more lives and triggered more violence than all other mind-altering substances combined, is one of the highest-valued products traded across the world, and it is glorified by all classes in the society, from the under-classes to the elite.
We need to get used to the reality that ganja is not a dangerous substance any more than alcohol is. Indeed, it has medicinal properties that have been identified, even commercialised (for glaucoma, relief from chronic pain, and more recently, certain neurological disorders). Increasingly, advanced countries across the world are decriminalising the possession of small amounts for recreational and medicinal purposes, and elsewhere it’s illegal but tolerated.
Recently, Jamaica decriminalised the possession of small amounts, its lawmakers formalising what has long existed on the ground. Now, the police can ignore what used to be a petty, victimless “crime”, clear the prisons of marijuana “offenders”, and focus their resources and energies on fighting serious crimes.
I have gone off on a tangent regarding today’s topic because I believe what I’ve written here needed to be said. However, few public figures will admit that they used ganja, and many media commentators who feel the way I do about legalising controlled use of the herb fear the likely backlash from those in the establishment who hypocritically seek to moralise on such matters even though they are mired in sin.
My main focus is the increasing use ganja, or some derivative or distillate from the herb, in treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. As research and development continues, a popular YouTube video shows a patient, Ian Frizell, shaking like a leaf, then, seconds after vaporising (different to smoking) 30 mg of marijuana, enjoying almost full relief from both tremors and dystonia (stiff limbs and muscles).
Only someone with PD can imagine such relief: conventional medications could take an hour or more to kick in. Many studies by reputable scientists and institutions have validated the efficacy of one drop of ganja oil in treating PD sufferers and patients who experience seizures because of neurological conditions.
In fact, in a very touching TED-Talk video, Hugh Hempel, an IT scientist turned healthcare entrepreneur by force of circumstance, tells his audience, “My 10-year-old twin daughters use marijuana.” He explains that the twins suffer with a rare, fatal neurodegenerative disease commonly called “Childhood Alzheimer’s”. He and his wife focused on trying to save their daughters’ lives, and they discovered a simple sugar compound called “cyclodextrin”.
However, to bring relief from the 100-seizures-a-week the twins suffered, they turned to “Cannabidiol”, an element in marijuana that is powerful in treating the brain. Long story short, the twins are treated several times a day with the drug developed by their parents (FDA-approved), and they enjoy ganja-relief from seizures.
As a PD patient, I am prepared to try ganja oil to see if, unlike Sinemet, the main medication, it brings speedy, and possibly long-lasting, relief.
The Government should decriminalise if not legalise the controlled use of ganja, especially for medicinal purposes. It could be a revenue source rather than a cost—wasting police and magistrates’ time, and feeding prisoners who will get their ganja anyway, inside or outside of jail.