‘Power concedes nothing without a demand. Never did and never will.’ Frederick Douglas
‘The world belongs to those who fight for it.’ Fidel Castro
‘Another world is not only possible, but she is also on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.’ Arundhati Roy
You know the world is changing when those who fought you at every turn embraces your cause and attempts to adopt it as their own. They may even try to deny that you ever championed what they now embrace on the hustle.
Who remembers when Rasta called alcohol ‘the devil’s soup’ and warned against the excessive use of salt, sugar, meat and oils? Most of those warnings were scoffed at and scorned. Today our youth drink more rum than water, too many of our people, especially our women, are no longer hungry, but overweight and obese. Few of us may remember the days when a young woman with a high stomach was met with the query ‘girl, you making a baby.’
We are witnessing the negative impact of the failure of our people especially our leaders to see and embrace what truth there was in those warnings. This particularly true if those espousing the novel idea are from the margins of society, the proverbial ‘faces at the bottom of the well.’
Well as Reggae legend Bunny Wailer said in his classic Black Heart Man ‘Wisdom is found in the simplest of places in the nick of time.’ As it was with the dos and don’ts for health and healthy living, so it is with medicine. It was Rasta who embraced and smoked the herb, proclaimed it as medicine and declared that the herb was for the healing of the nation.
Yet again they are proven right. By this time two generations of Vincentians have embraced the herb. As one activist said SVG is a Ganja country. However, there is the pervasive warning that Marijuana is a serious psychotic drug that plays havoc with the health of our young people. Name a Rasta or some heavy smoker who lost his mind to the herb? Others peddle the discredited claim that marijuana is the gateway drug. By this, they mean that people, especially the youth start with marijuana and then graduate to harder substances like crack. They even say that a high percentage of the persons at the mental asylum disclose that they may have used marijuana.
As we say in the law ‘he who frames the question wins the argument.’ One can be sure if these same young people were asked if they ever had alcohol a similarly high percentage would have said yes. But no one makes the argument that alcohol use creates pressures that lead to mental health issues. In more developed countries overuse of alcohol is treated as a mental health issue.
As we move to move to the commercial exploitation of marijuana we are finding out that smoking the herb is quite wasteful and allows for the least benefits from a health standpoint. The oils are most useful and helpful. In Japan and Ukraine, they are planting hemp in the areas contaminated by nuclear waste because of its extraordinary absorptive capacity. We also know now that the oils in marijuana can be used to wean people of addictions of various sorts. Marijuana has been proven to assist people who are chronically ill as well as alleviating the pain.
There are at least two active chemicals in marijuana that researchers think have medicinal applications. Those are cannabidiol (CBD) — which seems to impact the brain without a high— and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — which has pain relieving properties and is largely responsible for the high.
In addition to CBD and THC, there are another 400 or so chemical compounds, more than 60 of which are cannabinoids. Many of these could have medical uses. But without more research, we don’t know how to best make use of those compounds.
With the positive revelations regarding marijuana, one can only hope that the authorities adopt a holistic approach to marijuana. SVG is not going to be a major player in the medical marijuana business. We do not have the technology, finances or lands to parley marijuana into a lucrative niche. Medicine is high science for which we are way behind the curve. Therefore, an approach which entails the legal exploitation of marijuana must have as its major components health and justice. Over the last 100 years, there has been a full-throttle assault on marijuana use. State institutions such as the courts, prisons, schools, churches and their leaders played a key role in the stigmatization and brutalization of people and demonization of the herb. Since most of the marijuana is produced on state own lands, anything short of a major land reform program, which allows traditional growers to legally farm, will not serve the national interest and will amount to a give away to the local and foreign moneyed class.
It is said that the arc of the universe may bend toward justice. But it doesn’t bend on its own. Many fought, some died. Others bore the pain and endured the scorn and humiliation. Any real recognition of their effort and sacrifice should make us all the more humble.
The state must apologize for its arrogance. The church must atone for its connivance and our teachers must be armed with more scientific information. All of us must reflect on our ignorance. Most importantly, the state cannot now benefit from marijuana production without a commitment to make whole all those it damaged