There is a debate beginning to emerge in Barbados about how we can add value to managing our society by decriminalizing of ganja and pursue medical research. Yesterday’s Barbados Advocate adds to the discussion.
We suppose that it would be appropriate, since this region has been historically tarred in some parts with the dubious honour of being intimately involved in the criminal production and supply of marijuana to the rest of the world, that we should also be world leaders in research on the medicinal properties of that plant and its eventual commercialization as a remedy for certain ailments, rather than gaping in awe at the vast sums accumulated by some US jurisdictions in these same activities that, but a short while ago, their government routinely condemned, to the point of chemically destroying acres of plants in some countries.
It is to its credit therefore that the regional university has perceived the wisdom of this initiative, given the recent prompting of a Government senator and the subsequent call by the principal of the local campus for the current governing administration to introduce the necessary legislation to allow the necessary research to be conducted.
Indeed, it was not too long ago that we recall a CARICOM heads of government resolution, prompted by the Prime Minister of St Vincent & the Grenadines, to advance efforts to promote medicinal research in this area.
Nevertheless, every time there is a public call for decriminalization of the substance, we are to learn from officials of the need for further research, an attitude fuelled, no doubt, by hoary images of drug-crazed “paros” infesting the city streets as did the “assassins” (so named because they were thought to have been maddened by hashish) of long ago.
And few governments, especially at a time of popular distrust of current political systems, would want to risk their electoral chances on such a venture. Further, the important regional consideration of “how it go look” (to others) might serve to restrain even the more adventurous administrations.
Another reality to be borne in mind in this context is that the template from which the local drug law was taken does indeed permit the use of a controlled drug for certain purposes. According to section 12 of the Drug Abuse (Prevention & Control) Act, Cap 131, marginally noted as “Authorization of activities otherwise unlawful under foregoing provisions”, the Minister responsible for Health may, by regulations, “except from the offences of importation and exportation of a controlled drug, its production or supply and its possession, such controlled drug(s) as may be specified in the regulations, and make such other provisions as he thinks fit for the purpose of making it lawful for persons to do things that would otherwise be unlawful under earlier sections”.
Such regulations may secure, according to section 12 (3), “that it is not unlawful for a practitioner, acting in his capacity as such, to prescribe, administer, manufacture, compound or supply a controlled drug, or for a pharmacist, acting in his capacity as such, to manufacture, compound or supply a controlled drug.
However, according to section 12 (4), “if in the case of any controlled drug the Minister is of the opinion that it is in the public interest for production, supply and possession of that drug to be either wholly unlawful or unlawful except for purposes of research or other special purposes; he may by order designate that drug as a drug to which the subsection applies and subsection (3) shall not apply to that drug.
Clearly, the law already exists for there to be official authorization to conduct research into ganja and moreover, for its prescription by a doctor and its supply by a pharmacist should it be found to be of medicinal value.
All that is needed now is the political will and courage.