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September 20, 2013

Ganja Mission – 2 (First published Nov 1998)

by Frank E. da Silva Fri Sep 20, 2013

“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.” – Ivor Archie, Chief Justice, Trinidad, Sept, 2013.{{more}}

Last week I presented a brief history showing how it came about that a plant was declared illegal. This week, I shall compare that plant – the herb cannabis – alcohol, cigarette – another plant product so corrupted by legally mandated additives it has, allegedly, become quite deadly – and Viagra.

Illegal activity

But before I proceed, I noticed that a writer in another paper has taken the Chamber of Commerce to task for meeting with the spokesmen for the growers of ganja. “There is no way on God’s earth that a responsible organization should give credence to supporters of an illegal activity”, the writer wrote. I ask the writer, “Would he have supported those who granted refuge to run-away slaves?” This too was an illegal activity. And while we cast stones at the Chamber and refuse to meet with organizers, the Marijuana Party in New York State fielded its own gubernatorial candidate, Christopher Garvey, in the election of Nov 3.

The same writer seems unable to discern the difference between crimes – rape and robbery – that violate the civil rights of others and those in which there are no victims. He is unable to distinguish between good law and laws conceived in ignorance. Until a ganja grower engages in the use of force to get others to use the substance, there is no analogy what-so-ever to rape or robbery. Any attempt to do so is inane and vacuous and trivializes brutal crimes.


Marijuana, (nothing added) a mixture of leaves, stems and flower tops of Indian hemp – cannabis – was first used in Central Asia and China about 3000 BC as a folk medicine. In the 1960’s and ‘70s its use became wide spread as a pleasure inducing drug. Several tests have been unable to prove that marijuana is physically addictive. There are no withdrawal symptoms when use is discontinued. Many users report increased appetite, enhanced awareness, and pleasure. Others become confused, and suffer panic and anxiety attacks. The effects on the brain of long time use are unknown. Limited medical research has indicted that it is effective in reducing the symptoms of glaucoma, and treating the nausea caused by chemotherapy and radiation treatments of cancer.

Cannabis, the herb from which marijuana is obtained yields two other drugs – bhang and hashish, but what may not be widely known is that the plant is the source of drying oils used in the manufacture of paints, vanishes and soaps. The seeds are also used as bird food, while the fibre is used in the making of textile and rope. There is no data available showing a single death caused by marijuana use. (There is no known connection between Bob Marley’s cancer and the herb.)

On the other hand, alcohol, a legal substance, is linked to an estimated 97,000 deaths per year, in the U.S. alone. That is about 88 per cent of the population of S.V.G. The economic cost about US$100 billion per year. Alcohol does serious damage to the digestive system, causing such disorders as ulcers, inflammation of the pancreas, and cirrhosis of the liver. It damages the central and peripheral nervous systems; Delirium tremens (DTs) the most acute form of alcohol withdrawal can result in death even if treated promptly. Heroin withdrawal, while distressful, is rarely fatal. Drinking during pregnancy has been linked to physical and mental retardation of the unborn.

Cigarettes, a product subsidised by the US Government, with all its government regulated added chemicals, is linked to 148,000 deaths per year by the American Cancer Society. Cigarette users, unlike marijuana users, can become physically addicted to the nicotine. The US is the second largest exporter of this killer. Exporting one-third – and rising – of its crop. This killer is a US$3.4 billion a year industry. An industry that has just negotiated a US$200 billion settlement with several states, because of the health-related problems linked to this government approved product.

Next we come to the “love drug” Viagra. On the US market only since March, the drug, which can be obtained legally only by prescription, has been linked to over 150 deaths. One of the side effects of the drug is that the color green appears blue. Airline pilots have been warned not to take the drug if they are scheduled to fly in less than six hours because of that particular problem. Authorities are currently trying to determine whether a the crash of a light plane two weeks ago was caused by use of the drug, since a bottle containing the drug was found at the crash site. In the meantime, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ordered the maker of the drug, Pfizer, to place firmer warnings on the label.

No justification

Based on the above facts, why is marijuana an illegal substance while alcohol, cigarettes and Viagra are not? On what scientific or moral ground is the use of ganja an illegal activity? The current American Administration has cut its drug-fighting budget for five of its six years. The former Surgeon General, Jocelyn Elders, a Clinton appointee, (her son was convicted of using cocaine) was an advocate of drug (including crack and cocaine) legalization. Clinton’s brother, Roger, has also been convicted on charges of sale and use of cocaine. He [Clinton] has pardoned his friend and campaign contributor, Danny Ray Lasiter, after he was jailed for distributing cocaine (a pardon which prompted one senator to call on the White House to “clarify the rationale for the pardon”). Clinton is an admitted ganja user.

James Mitchell cannot justify his decision not to meet with ganja growers by claiming that to do so would send some signal that may upset the Americans. Outside of Holland, two states in America – Arizona and Washington – are reputed to be the largest growers of ganja, but it is not as potent as that grown in the Caribbean. What justification do the Americans have to demand that we let them poison our children with their cancer-causing chemicals? When was the last time one of my countrymen used force to get any American to buy ganja? In several European countries, drug users are given free needles to do “their thing”, while others pick up their supplies at government approved locations, so what is the lie about the EU “discontinuing support for our bananas?” Sure we may need the assistance of the Americans, but not to spray cancer-causing herbicides on innocent Vincentians; we need the FBI to help us find Dr Rolla, who would be able to explain to us why a structure worth EC$13.4m has ended up costing us EC$99m plus $136m in interest – a total of $235m. A real “red letter day”, eh, Arnhim?