THE OPENING, this past weekend, of the first ‘cannabis consumption lounge’ in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has sparked another round of heated debate in our country about the medicinal cannabis industry and related topics.
Much of the discussion this time is related to who gets to legally participate in the industry as a producer or consumer and what actions will still land a person before the court or worse, behind bars. Already, some are saying that the benefits appear to be reserved for those well placed in the society, while the poor are still no better off.
But alongside the discussions about the medicinal value of cannabis and the business opportunities available within the industry, there is another important message that we should be shouting, but instead, it appears muted. We need to speak more about the possible effect of marijuana consumption on mental health lest our children get the impression that there are no risks associated with the use of marijuana.
It is well documented that marijuana intoxication hinders attention, long-term memory storage and psychomotor skills involved in driving a car or operating machinery. Marijuana has also been known to trigger psychotic episodes in the vulnerable including those with a family history of mental illness.
The point we are making is that while there is undoubtedly a long list of medicinal benefits that can be had from using cannabis and cannabis products, we must be clear in our messaging. Marijuana should be used only by those who have been prescribed the drug by a medical doctor in order to treat a particular ailment.
We must protect our children. Here in SVG, it is said that over 50 per cent of admissions to the Mental Health and Rehabilitation Centre involve marijuana abuse. Many of those admitted due to marijuana abuse suffer from psychotic symptoms, schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder. Still others have to be readmitted because a diagnosis, which would be otherwise stable, was made profoundly worse because of marijuana abuse.
When the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Amendment Act (2018), was passed in Parliament on July 25, 2019, the point was made that it is still a criminal offence if a person is found with any quantity of marijuana on “any school premises, educational institutions, medical institutions or any sporting or cultural venue where there are students.”
While making this provision in the Law is commendable, it is not enough. We need to step up our public education so that whenever we speak about medicinal cannabis and its benefits, we must also speak about the risk associated with its use, especially to young people whose brains are still developing.