I recently attended a conference on medical marijuana in order to become more informed on the current state of knowledge. For the past three decades, I have found discussing marijuana use to be an emotional subject for some, which rarely ends well if there is disagreement. Nevertheless, into the octagon I go.
The Bible teaches that God made all living things and declared them to be good. The herb has a purpose, regardless of whether we understand that purpose or not. The Bible teaches that certain plants were created to be our food. The supporting Biblical passage follows. “And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.’” (Genesis 1:29)
Research of the marijuana plant has found many health benefits. Therefore, why is it illegal to have this useful plant? The simple answer is that good things can be misused.
Our youth need parental guidance, especially during their teenage years when they are going through puberty. One of the side effects of puberty is that our teenagers tend not to appreciate the consequences of their actions.
As teenagers get used to their new feelings, they seek excitement. During this critical stage of their development, it is the responsibility of adults to: guide our youth towards responsible exciting behaviours, restrain them from irresponsible exciting behaviours, and help them avoid harm from responsible but risky exciting behaviours.
The promise of excitement from sex, drugs, and alcohol has proven too much for many youth. In our attempts to protect them, we have specified a legal age before which our youth cannot consent to sex, or purchase alcoholic beverages or addictive drugs.
Teenagers have gotten around our legal restrictions on drugs and alcohol, by getting irresponsible adults to obtain them. Where teenagers cannot find an adult to lead them astray, they have misused other products, like the dangerous practise of inhaling fumes of paints, glues and cleaning products.
The hope of all responsible adults is that teenagers will also grow into responsible adults, who will properly guide the next generation of vulnerable teenagers. Most teenagers make it through puberty, either scathed or unscathed, and become responsible adults. However, not all transition at the same time.
Adults who become addicted to harmful behaviours, delay their responsibility to positively guide the next generation. If they delay until they are elderly, then they may be less effective.
There are no legal restrictions on the sale or use of paints, glues or cleaners. This is because teenagers who used to inhale the fumes of these products, quickly stopped that lunacy when they became adults. All adults will likely discourage teenagers from that dangerous practise. The same cannot be said for marijuana.
At the marijuana conference, the doctors generally agreed that smoking marijuana was not recommended. Unfortunately, many adults have encouraged vulnerable teenagers to follow them in burning the marijuana plant, and then inhaling its smoke. It is only because of such irresponsible actions by adults that the benefits of the marijuana plant are not legally available to us.
In their attempts to protect their youth, the US has made possession of the marijuana plant a federal crime. They are so desperate to protect their youth, that they have threatened to damage the trading capacity of countries that do not also treat it as an illegal substance. Since we rely on international trade, we have no choice but to follow the US in making it illegal.
We cannot ignore the threat to Barbados’ economy, so we must respect the US’ position. However, we should not make criminals out of people who use or misuse the plant. Therefore, Solutions Barbados policy is to treat it as a traffic violation, like speeding, and fine those in the chain of possession.
Growers would be fined based on the value of the herbs they cultivated, distributors would be fined based on the value that they distributed, and consumers would be fined based on the value that they had in their possession. Therefore, each person in the chain of possession can calculate their likely fines, and decide whether participating in the marijuana trade is worth the risk.
Admittedly, Solutions Barbados’ policy could be misinterpreted as a clever attempt to legalise and tax marijuana through fines, for the purpose of tricking the USA to avoid the threat to Barbados’ economy. Since any fine under 100 per cent can be reasonably considered a tax, Solutions Barbados proposed a fine of ten times the street value of the offence to completely remove the idea of a tax from consideration.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at [email protected]