Features — 06 June 2018
Cuba should legalize it

Many Belizeans, maybe most, have great appreciation for what Fidel Castro and the Cuban people have achieved after their great revolution in 1959. Cuba was the playground of rich Cubans and rich Americans. That is a fact. The people were poor, and uneducated. Before the revolution there was great inequality in their society, and a lot of chaans of people who weren’t rich, especially those with a lot of melanin. The revolution changed that. The Cuban people now rank among the most educated in the world.

Rich people would say that Cubans are still poor. There are few greater tragedies than great inequality of wealth. Great inequality of wealth in a country (the immensely rich and the immensely poor), leads to a myriad of social problems, the worst one being instability. There is no worse place to live than the one that is unstable. Cuba does not have this kind of poverty.

What is “dollars”? It’s all about what one can buy. If one has a lot of dollars but can’t afford food, clothing and shelter, one is poor. If one has few dollars and can afford food, clothing and shelter, one is fairly well off. A sage from Toledo rural made this comment after a study (World Bank?) compared the per capita income in different parts of our country and found that in Toledo rural the people didn’t earn much cash. Our brother said: I used to think we were rich. Now I find out that we are poor.

I could go off course, so just allow me this. The sense I have of the Cuban Revolution is that the leaders didn’t intend to go so far to the left. You would have to be reckless to WANT to rile up the Americans. But the people who were the “cause” of the revolution were relentless. They wanted their playground back, their playground where they trampled the poor and stripped them of their dignity, and kept people with melanin in their place. They wanted their playground back and Fidel and his people did what they had to do, to defend the revolution.

So, there is a revolution, and the leaders obviously want it to work. To make the revolution work, all hands are needed on deck. Adults must work and children must be prepared for the world of work, and to do a little work too. Anything, or anyone who plays foil to the state’s objective, is an enemy of the state. Cuba “treated” marijuana as an enemy of their state.

Cuba did not see smoking cigars as an enemy of the state. Maybe they didn’t know that nicotine causes cancer, and workers to be short of breath. Cigarettes (cigars) are one of the major exports of Cuba, their number three export, to be precise. They continued investing a lot in their tobacco industry.

Cuba did not see rum as an enemy of the state. Maybe they didn’t know that rum causes cirrhosis of the liver, and workers to perform poorly because of hangover. Rum is one of the major exports of Cuba, their fourth most important export, to be precise. They continued investing a lot in their sugarcane industry.

Cuba could have started a marijuana industry. Marijuana grows well in our part of the world.

In the story, “Marijuana’s History: How One Plant Spread Through the World”, Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, drawing from the work of Barney Warf and Ernest L. Abel, wrote: From the sites where prehistoric hunters and gatherers lived, to ancient China and Viking ships, cannabis has been used across the world for ages…For the most part, it was widely used for medicine and spiritual purposes…the Vikings and medieval Germans used cannabis for relieving pain during childbirth and for toothaches…

The idea that this is an evil drug is a very recent construction, and the fact that it is illegal is a historical anomaly. Marijuana has been legal in many regions of the world for most of its history…

…Cannabis plants are believed to have evolved on the steppes of Central Asia, specifically in the regions that are now Mongolia and southern Siberia…The history of cannabis use goes back as far as 12,000 years, which places the plant among humanity’s oldest cultivated crops…Cannabis came to the South Asian subcontinent between 2000 B.C. and 1000 B.C., when the region was invaded by the Aryans — a group that spoke an archaic Indo-European language. The drug became widely used in India, where it was celebrated as one of “five kingdoms of herbs … which release us from anxiety” in one of the ancient Sanskrit Vedic poems whose name translates into “Science of Charms”…

…It arrived in the southwest United States from Mexico, with immigrants fleeing that country during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1911…Many early prejudices against marijuana were thinly veiled racist fears of its smokers, often promulgated by reactionary newspapers …Mexicans were frequently blamed for smoking marijuana, property crimes, seducing children and engaging in murderous sprees…The plant was first outlawed in Utah in 1915, and by 1931 it was illegal in 29 states…

Okay, the Cubans knew about the dangers of smoking and drinking. They must have known that the Americans were criminally unfair to classify marijuana as a dangerous drug, so it takes some explaining, why they picked up on the crazy American view about it.

www.cannabis.info said, on the legal status of medical marijuana in Cuba, that the production, sale and possession of any form of medicinal marijuana products are illegal in Cuba… The cultivation, sale, and possession of cannabis for recreational purposes are illegal in Cuba… You will get arrested, face charges and jail time, up to 10 years.

In a June 2017 story, by Sarah Marsh (on Reuters), she reported, The liberalization of marijuana laws is fueling drug trafficking but Cuba will not follow the trend of loosening restrictions on marijuana, a government official said…Antonio Israel Ibarra, the secretary of the National Drugs Commission…said the Communist-run country would not be joining countries in the region that have legalized cannabis for medicinal or recreational purposes…We have not legalized it, nor will we… Ibarra said the United States and Cuba continued to cooperate on drug trafficking issues…

Most likely, one of the reasons the Cubans set up a roadblock on marijuana is because it is believed to possess some chemicals that can alter the mind permanently. And Cuba needed all hands on deck to defend the revolution.

If you know about the opium story in China, you are aware that this drug was used for conquest. The British, and the Americans, Japanese, and others too, were all in for a piece of the action. Chinese leaders had to fight really hard to get out of the grip the opium traders had on their country.

The Wikipedia says Mao Zedong used “unrestrained repression and social reform” to control opium addiction in China in the 1950’s. It says that 10 million “addicts were forced into compulsory treatment, dealers were executed, and opium-producing regions were planted with new crops.” Ah, but despite such brutal tactics, in 2003 “China was estimated to have four million regular drug users and one million registered drug addicts.”

Marijuana, of course, is not opium. There are no such stories about, of nations subjugating nations, with marijuana. And marijuana is nowhere near as addictive as opium, nor is it as potent a drug.

I think Cuba should reconsider its policy about marijuana. The drug is believed to have mind altering chemicals, but at worst it causes mild changes. People who have a tendency to paranoia might become slightly more so, and there are scientific studies that show it is not that gentle on memory cells. But marijuana has only been accused of making people become violent, in racist journals.

It is true that all nations need as many hands on deck as they can get, but it must be recognized that not all of us are in the business of rocket science, or finding the cure for cancer. Brains that are involved in research and development must be kept at cutting edge. Most of us just want to tend our gardens, catch our fish, sing to our guitar, play ball, etc.

Every effort must be made to protect young brains from the ravages of all drugs that can alter the mind. Unfortunately, rum, which has little permanent effect on the mind (except in excessive consumption) , can be addictive, so young minds must be kept away from alcohol (rum) too. We don’t know about their capacities and inclinations until they are mature, so this protection must extend to all children. Draconian laws to protect children from drug exposure will find support everywhere.

This Cuban position is rather difficult to understand, and I’m interested in knowing what is behind it. Of course, all nations have their right to their course. And of course, we shouldn’t wait for Cuba to right theirs. Belize should make the next step, and legalize it. (I’m out of space so I’ll leave off here, for now)

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Deshawn Swasey

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