Please keep off the grass

Dear Editor,

Available information suggests that marijuana, or cannabis, is the most extensively used illegal drug in western societies.

The federal government of the United States still prohibits it.

I contend that it is viscerally instinctive to suggest that the legalization of marijuana is more beneficial than harmful to a society.

Legalization of the substance is equivalent to the government being the ‘middleman’ in the ultimate effect this drug will have on the user.

Decriminalization increases the appetite and resulting demand for existing and new users; thus strengthening the monopoly of those trading a ‘buzz’ for cash.

One of the prevailing arguments of proponents of legalizing the ‘grass’ (cannabinoid) is that it will directly eliminate the adverse criminal record for many young persons who are incarcerated or have a criminal record for having been found and charged for having small amounts of the banned substance.

Consideration of savings to the taxpaying public for housing and maintaining those individuals currently incarcerated at Her Majesty’s “Reform Centre”, has also been tendered as economically progressive and worthy of moral praise.

What is the researched cost value to the user and society at large for legalizing the said substance?

What about the law of supply and demand?

Availability increases participation.

The ‘grass’ is indisputably recognized as having psychoactive features.

What’s the value of one derailed mind of an individual and by association society?

What are the experts (psychologists, physicians, psychiatrists, etc.) saying, who have massive experiences of treating persons who demonstrated a proclivity to the frequent use of this particular ‘grass’?

[It is spurious to believe that the majority of those young and older offenders were using the substance primarily for medicinal purposes.]

If this pseudo rationale was to be applied to other criminal offenses based on volume or size of the offense, then persons should not be arrested, charged and convicted for illegal possession/actions that are not against the state, e.g. small amounts (relative), e.g. cocaine; minor traffic infraction (one non-functional break light), of money (failure to pay weekly child support); food (a tin of tuna from your employer) or any inexpensive (subjectively relative) items (‘bubbler’ phone).

So, individuals and businesses should not consider it irrational when asked to drop all thought or possible legal actions against persons who might steal small amounts (relative) of personal items.

Clearly, this is a very slippery slope argument and cannot gain moral or objective traction when applied to other categories of breaking the law in The Bahamas.

If there is a modicum of truth to giving ‘housed’ individuals a second chance, is there a legal impediment to commuting those charges from criminal to civil without leaving a criminal record? Here, I publicly confess my legal ignorance.

In The Bahamas, the traditional perception-landscape regarding the deviant subculture and dark specter of marijuana use and its possession are being threatened by political and special interests ‘bulldozer’ groups.

Under the banner of being progressively modern and socially relevant, we can hear the sound of the rumbling of the bulldozer getting louder and louder.

Across its massive and powerful blade are the words legalization, medicinal, economic opportunity and unshackle the masses.

In terms of drug classification, marijuana is an hallucinogen.

Scientists have determined that it is a psychoactive (mind-altering) agent that can cause hallucinations, perceptual anomalies, and other substantially subjective changes in thoughts, emotion and consciousness.

The experts have also determined that there are more than 400 different chemicals found in marijuana.

Less than 90 of them are unique to marijuana (cannabis plant, called cannabinoids). The most pharmacologically active of these cannabinoids is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), discovered by chemist, Rafael Mechoulam.

This chemical compound is found in the resin glands of the female cannabis flower. It is also found in the male plant, but in milder amounts.

THC, known as cannabinoids, acts as secondary metabolites in organic chemistry.

In marijuana, these secondary metabolites act as a part of the plant’s internal immune system. Research has shown that this powerful chemical helps the plant fend off natural bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Some of the common street names for this drug are pot, joint (hand-rolled cigarettes), herb, Aunt Mary, bongs (smoked using water pipes), reefer, White Widow Smoke, grass, kief/keef, bud, ear wax, shatter, ganja, dope, weed, blunts (smoked in empty cigars that have been partially or completely refilled with marijuana), astro turf, black glass, skunk, spliff, 710 (the word ‘oil’ flipped and spelled backwards), locoweed, toke, Mary Jane, roach and boom.

Formally, marijuana is also called cannabis, hashish, hemp or sinsemilla.

Sometimes, it is brewed as tea, or use of its extract in various mixtures of food products.

“Marijuana smoke, more than tobacco smoke, contains higher levels of several toxic compounds, including ammonia and hydrogen cyanide,” according to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

When marijuana is smoked, the THC passes from the lungs and into the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to the organs throughout the body, including the brain.

In the brain, the THC connects to specific sites called cannabinoid receptors on nerve cells, and influences the activity of those cells (A DEA Resource Guide 2017 Edition).

It attaches itself to the hippocampus (responsible for memory); the frontal cortex (where thinking takes place); and the cerebellum (responsible for movement).

Many of these receptors are found in the parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thought, concentration, sensory and time perception and co-ordinated movement.

The effect of marijuana on perception and co-ordination are responsible for serious impairment in learning, associative processes, and psychomotor behavior (e.g. skillfully operating a machinery). 

Long term or heavy use can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal following discontinuance, as well as psychic addition or dependence. Modern farming techniques have developed strains of cannabis that have a greater level of THC than in the past.

In 1974, the level of THC was about one percent; in 1994, it averaged four percent; in 2008, the average level of THC was 9.6 percent and in 2012 its average was around 12 percent.

Guess what the average level of THC is in 2020?

These increases in the potency of THC in marijuana over the years raise a valid concern as to the relevancy of the finding of the past on the human body.

Remember the aggressive campaign of the past, where multiple agencies with one voice were canvasing the nations and schools in particular with the slogan, “Say No to Drugs”? Marijuana is a drug (so are alcohol and tobacco).

Is the new slogan for 2020, led by our government, going to be, “Say Yes to Drugs” (today, grass; tomorrow, white mosquito)?

I hope not, and therefore, I humbly submit, ‘PLEASE REJECT THE GRASS’!

– A voice in the wilderness,

W. Fowler

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