By Jada Loutoo
September 17, 2013 – newsday.co.tt
AS some regional nations and parts of North and Latin America move towards decriminalising the consumption and possession of marijuana, Chief Justice Ivor Archie has began the ball rolling for similar considerations, in some capacity, for Trinidad and Tobago.
“After over a quarter of a century in the law, nine years of which were spent as a prosecutor actively involved in drug prosecutions and asset confiscation, I have come to the view that drug trafficking and drug consumption should be treated differently,” he said.
In his wide-ranging address for the ceremonial opening of the 2013/2014 law term at the Convocation Hall of the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, Archie admitted the topic of decriminalising marijuana would be a controversial one.
The suggestion, he also said, was one for policymakers.
“This is not a moral judgment although one might observe that marijuana consumption probably wreaks no more havoc than alcohol addiction but we provide support for one and punishment for the other,” the Chief Justice pointed out.
There has been heated debate about the possible decriminalisation of possessing small quantities of marijuana, as well as over legalising its sale and consumption for medical purposes.
In the United States several states have already enacted laws to legalise marijuana use.
According to Archie, the economic and social consequences of incarcerating large numbers of youths for possession and/or consumption of small amounts of drugs were immense.
“Moreover it is now appearing that the consensus about many of the assumptions about the effects of marijuana in particular is unraveling,” he said, citing the recent turnaround by CNN’s chief health correspondent Dr Sanjay Gupta publicly changing his stance on the issue.
Gupta, in August, apologised for his part in misleading the American public on the issue of marijuana use and abuse.
“It doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works,” Gupta said, noting that it was hard to make a case that it had a high potential for abuse.
“The physical symptoms of marijuana addiction are nothing like those of the other drugs I’ve mentioned. I have seen the withdrawal from alcohol, and it can be life threatening,” the CNN correspondent said.
In the United States (US) alone, marijuana possession has been decriminalised in ten states.
Findings from dozens of US government-commissioned and academic studies published over the past 25 years overwhelmingly affirm that liberalising marijuana penalties does not lead to an increase in marijuana consumption or affect adolescent attitudes toward drug use.
In those US states which have enacted versions of marijuana decriminalisation, marijuana users no longer face jail time (nor in most cases, arrest or criminal records) for the possession or use of small amounts of marijuana.
Internationally, many states and nations have enacted similar policies.
According to the conclusions of some studies, the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine found that ‘there is little evidence that decriminalisation of marijuana use necessarily leads to a substantial increase in marijuana use.”
The Connecticut Law Review Commission examined laws from other states that have reduced penalties for small amounts of marijuana and the impact of those laws in those states and those studies found that expenses for arrest and prosecution of marijuana possession offenses were significantly reduced, any increase in the use of marijuana in those states was less than increased use in those states that did not decrease their penalties and the largest proportionate increase occurred in those states with the most severe penalties, and reducing the penalties for marijuana has virtually no effect on either choice or frequency of the use of alcohol or illegal ‘harder’ drugs such as cocaine.”
In his address, Archie pointed out that “in an economy where the state is the major employer and a criminal conviction is a bar to employment, we may be pushing minor non-violent offenders into criminality when they can be saved.”
He said the Judiciary’s Drug Treatment Court (DTC) was a first effort at arresting that trend.
“It is early days yet and the numbers so far are small. While results so far are not all perfect, there are very encouraging signs,” he said.
Archie spoke of the progress of one of the DTC’s users, who has since his admission in May has been sober for 66 days and between the period of February and May he has been attending Narcotics Anonymous sessions. According to the Chief Justice, police and prisons and the courts in terms of cost and human resources will be lessened if focus was placed on the scourge of trafficking.
He maintained that as long as the laws on possession of marijuana were on the books, the Judiciary had to enforce them and would continue to do so, but he added that, “We “must take a long hard look at policy in this area.” (See CJ’s speech page on 20A)
In an immediate response, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said while she was not against what the Chief Justice recommended, she said it was the Government’s priority and policy to treat with all law-breakers.
She said perhaps what the Chief Justice was recommending was to treat with the “larger (drug) cases” first. The Prime Minister insisted that the Government was adamant about enforcement of the law and any measure of “lawlessness” would be dealt with.
“I am sure consideration will be given to amounts a person is held with, but I cannot give an answer of ‘yea or nay,” she said when asked about the possibility of the Government giving consideration to the decriminalisation of marijuana use.
13 thoughts on “Treat Ganja Use Differently”
The lost war
PETER O’CONNOR Sunday, August 25 2013
If the Government banned the sale, possession and consumption of alcohol today, none of us who enjoy our drink tonight would give up drinking tomorrow.
If the Government banned the sale, possession and smoking of tobacco today, no current smokers would give up their cigarettes by tomorrow.
And if the Government legalised the possession and use of marijuana today, no one who does not currently smoke marijuana today will start smoking tomorrow.
In matters such as these, the law is irrelevant to peoples’ behaviour. They continue to do what they do, even if they have to become secretive about it. The United States should have learned what happens when government bans something which enjoys a huge public demand. In the “prohibition era” when alcohol was banned, a massive crime wave swept the country, while every “law abiding” citizen, restaurant and club drank, sold and served alcohol. The United States declared a “war against alcohol,” which they could never win and finally repealed the prohibition laws.
Using, selling or growing marijuana is a crime because lawmakers made it a crime. And the banning of marijuana made the substance immensely popular among the counterculture, and marijuana became identified with that counterculture. That “identification” implying that mainstream adults did not use it.
And the only reason that there is a massive international crime wave ongoing regarding marijuana is because it remains an illegal substance. Organised crime thrives upon supplying goods that are in demand, but banned by law. And we in Trinidad and Tobago are among the victims of the “War on Drugs” still being fought, although long since lost, and nowhere in the world is this so-called war being won by those who oppose marijuana.
Just as had happened in the United States during Prohibition, thousands of people “employed” in the supply and delivery of drugs are being killed — in turf wars, gang fall-outs, and in battles with the police and armies. They are supplying the product to a “market” which is mainly not criminal, not violent, and which considers itself law-abiding in everything, but their use of marijuana.
The current ray of enlightened thinking as expressed recently by Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Dookeran, suggesting that we should consider the decriminalisation of marijuana, brings a measure of hope that we may end a large sector of criminal activity by simply declaring that it is not a crime. Indeed marijuana was sold under license in Trinidad and Tobago until the early 1940’s, I am advised. Premises were “Licensed for the sale of ganja and peppers.” It was apparently used by the rural Indian communities, as their social palliative at the end of their working day, much as we have our drink before dinner around sunset. Back then marijuana was hardly ever used by the rest of the population. But it is said that with the coming of the Americans in World War Two, they asked the British Government to ban the sale of the herb.
I support the legalisation of marijuana, and I have written on this before. I am not going to get into the discussions on the effects of marijuana on health, behaviour, and whether it is addictive or not. There is ongoing discussion on those aspects. But I believe that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, tobacco and many prescription drugs. The issue which should guide our decisions on marijuana is the fact that we obviously cannot successfully ban it and it therefore drives violent crime.
If the bans on marijuana were effective, and the trade and use of marijuana simply dried up, I would have no problem with that. But that is not the case: people who are productive members of society continue to use it, and do not consider themselves to be criminals, although they “support crime” in the acquisition of their supplies. Nowhere in the world, including in countries where marijuana possession is punishable by death, is there a working ban which has succeeded in ending marijuana use. It is time to accept that the “war” has failed, and to let the millions of people who use marijuana get it without having to support the crime involved in its growing and distribution.
Marijuana use should be restricted, like alcohol and tobacco, to adults and to persons who are not involved in careers like pilots, bus and train operators, or any activity where concerns for public safety can override the “right” of the individual to use it. This area can be monitored and enforced as is currently the case, by testing individuals to ensure they comply with the “no marijuana” requirements of their jobs.
But its use should not be a crime. And we should now return to the 1940’s and allow people to grow and smoke it if they wish. What do you think?
Why is Marijuana Illegal?
Legal history of cannabis in the United States
Rastafari: The Secret History of the Marijuana Religion
How Cannabis was Criminalised
A lucid Trini up there ^^^^^. Rare thing. Thanks to Peter’s considered approach, I’ve nothing to add other than ‘Aye’.
I refer to the Global Commission on Drug report of June 2011 located at http://www.commissionondrugs.org.
The use of Marijuanna should be decriminalize. It is a natural herb, unlike the products of tobacco which is used legally. No, if it is decriminalized those who do not use will not suddenly begin using. There might be a short spike in usage as people react to the end of restrictions, but this will soon taper off back to the norm.
The decriminalization of Marijuanna will open up venues for innovative by production of a large quantity of commercial products made from the hemp plant.
The use of Monkey Brains are common in some cultures, pretty soon we will be using our Monkey Brains in decision making. Morals, Spirituality, and Principles are hanging by a tread.
The Big Question is:What’s next? This Herb saps the Oxygen from the Brains, Destroys Brain Cells and Enhance Memory Lost…where are the Guardian of Public Health and Safety??
What is the Foundation for Future Generations? Cold POT HEADS…Yeh man!!!
I wonder if the use of that herb by the indentured in T&T operated to create monkey brains in their descendants, and if we are witnessing its manifestations in some of the commentary in this blog. The original pot heads of T&T, as pointed out in the original piece, were those who were brought to these shores as indentured servants. If the hemp herb saps oxygen from the brain, then it might explain why we are witnessing the kind of politics, the absence of principles, and the obdurate analysis being proffered as nuggets of wisdom.
True to the Fact is MONKEY BRAINS- Don’t trust the Politicians to implement Morals and Spirituality in the Masses. They are the ones with the Monkey Brains.
These Dupes are the Pawns of the Outside forces, nothing shore of the IMF games. PNM, ULP, UNC, PP they are the pawns in the Game.
Examine Society, Culture and the Economics- Foreign elements are the Culprits and is slowly taking over this place. If Parliament pushing this Herb, is because they are the one’s that are boiling it and drinking it to leisure.
Use your Brains and don’t let the Monkey break he back for a piece of Pommarac…
What seem to escape your ken is that many young men and women are being lost away in prison for being in possession of meager quantities of this herb, or for smoking a joint. Subjugating concern for that over a perception that there is an international conspiracy involved in the widening calls for decriminalization of the herb suggest that you are ok with it being used politically to imprison these youths.
Local Political Parties are not pawns of any outside force, the crap they do are products of their own subjective mindsets. The foreign elements that are creeping into T&T and taking over are doing so with the approval of local powers, who are being paid handsomely for opening the gates. They are not pawns, they are co-conspirators in get rich schemes using the natural resources of the state as the funding apparatus.
Yep Pound and a Crown… Who fooling who in this life. Small man always paying the price on every level. Man with a small joint going down doing the time.
While man with the big connection flying high and enjoying up the Life. When ever you hear about Police making a buss and a large quantity of Herbs being stumbled upon, no body ever gets caught in these operations..
So with the white powder stuff, you think is small man in this operations? Think again. It takes Millions to get this on the flow in society, no small man have that kind of dough to have this flowing.
All the arms that are being found in this place, you think Trinidad making this type of equipment?? No way Sar! You think Trinidad is separated from Big Business World, think again, nuff respect, but you have to be seeing between the lines…
Is Cockroach wearing sliders no-a-days…
Crap. The people who are being arrested and jailed are poor black and brown. What the hell does it matter if Trinidad does not make the arms used in the war. Who the hell are being killed and jailed. I mean how obtuse does one has to be not to be able to grasp and understand these simple things.
Ok CRAB I hear you, a regular in the Barrel
Coke dealers and coke smugglers are living the high life and rubbing shoulders with the business elite, while, as Mr. Paton rightly points out, poor black and brown youths are being thrown in jail and having their lives destroyed for the mere possession of a joint or two of marijuana— an offence that would probably be dealt with by a school counselor when it happens to a privileged kid.
When these youths are jailed, they often come out as hardened criminals. So much for rehabilitation.
Let’s all support CJ Ivor Archie on this one.
Like Martin Luther King Jr opined, there is nothing more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. I believe we are seeing nuggets of that on display in this thread.
Advancing an argument for the continuation of the current drug laws, appended to argumentations that it is controlled by the powerful, is evidence of Monkey Brain thinking. The current drug laws have been used as a rationale to warehouse non violent black and brown offenders against such laws. Until recently, the penalty for possession of crack cocaine, a derivative of cocaine, was way more than the penalty for cocaine. That was because of the perception that crack was mainly an inner city drug while cocaine was a wall street drug
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