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Legalize “it”, strictly for local use

EditorialLegalize “it”, strictly for local use

The government, after putting a pause on legalized marijuana because of a challenge led by the Evangelical churches, placed the matter in a file and forgot it. It would appear that the government’s sole interest was the creation of a new industry, and having run into headwinds from those who see marijuana as the gateway to hell, and those who were fearful the US would penalize us through our banking system, they have lost all their zeal. It was all or nothing from the start; and not getting all, we are left where the present government found us, with a marijuana law that fosters an environment for corruption and violence and forces some productive citizens into criminality.

There are a number of reasons why we should move to legitimize marijuana. Those against legal marijuana must understand that people will smoke it. If it remains in the control of illegitimate hands we expose our people to deadly adulterations. The violence won’t stop if it is illegal; promoting false information erodes the confidence young adults and youth have in the authorities, and maintaining the status quo encourages violence and makes criminals of our people.

People will smoke marijuana. Long before the first pharmacy opened, human beings sought medicinal plants to treat ailments of the body and soothe or stimulate the mind. Animals do that too, at least for their bodies. There are countless stories from the wild of animals using plants to treat physical wounds or rid their bodies of parasites. Who hasn’t seen dogs with a stomachache eating plants to induce vomiting?

There is greater knowledge today about marijuana, its potential to harm the body. It is wise for us to heed the advice of people who present scientific evidence of the negative impacts of this drug. The warnings overwhelmingly are for individuals who have uncontrollable appetites. It’s a noble objective to save the few who are vulnerable. However, making marijuana illegal exposes ALL users to deadly synthetic drugs and adulterations, just as the prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the US between 1920 and 1933 exposed drinkers to adulterated or inferior products, some so toxic they caused blindness, even death.

Marijuana is illegal in Sierra Leone. That leaves control of the drug in the hands of people who don’t answer to the law. Kemo Chan, in a story in the Associated Press, said that Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio had “declared a war on kush, calling it an epidemic and a national threat.” Bio said, “We are witnessing the destructive consequences of kush on our country’s very foundation, our young people.” Chan said, “People rarely know what they’re getting with kush, a derivative of cannabis mixed with synthetic drugs like fentanyl and tramadol and chemicals like formaldehyde.”

That’s the reality when the state is misguided in its policies. The anti-drug lobby would argue that the potential for adulterated products should deter people from using them. That’s logical, but extremely inconsiderate of people who will take the risk. Millions of people across the world smoke marijuana in moderation, despite it being illegal in their countries. Is it just, responsible for the state to leave them at the mercy of drug dealers, some of whom are extremely unscrupulous?

A big part of the government’s sales pitch when it was rallying support to “legalize it”, was that the new status for marijuana would lead to a reduction in violent crime. Presently, possession of 10 grams of marijuana is legal, but there is no legal way to get it. Government didn’t “legalize it.” Thanks to a few respectable initiatives, violence hasn’t increased. It hasn’t decreased either. Only recently, in March/April of this year, the government had to pull out the tool of totalitarian states, the State of Emergency, to address an explosion of murders.

Understandably, it was a setback for the government when they couldn’t go through with legalizing marijuana, after all the effort they had put into it. But the government gets no points for dropping legalization in toto. Making marijuana a new growth industry is not the only way to take the violence out of the drug. Legalizing marijuana production and use strictly within our borders could help to return peace in our once tranquil haven.

There’s a high price for being dishonest with our young adults and youth. Marijuana isn’t the deadly drug that its detractors claim it to be. Lindsay Whitehurst, in a story reproduced in TIME magazine on May 16, 2024, said the US Justice Department had “formally moved to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug.” According to the story, the US’s Drug Enforcement Administration was taking “public comment on the proposal to move marijuana away from its current classification as a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD”, to Schedule III, “alongside ketamine and some anabolic steroids.” The authorities in the US have known all along that scary documentaries that declare marijuana to be a terrible and addictive drug were false.

The law that categorizes individuals under 16-years-old as children serves to protect them from too early sexual activity, drugs, alcohol, and hard physical labor, until their minds and bodies are fully developed. There is no indication that marijuana use would greatly increase among youngsters if it was legalized for adults in Belize. There is no evidence that marijuana use among the young has increased since 10 milligrams was decriminalized. People who smoke weed are still doing it in corners, and children have as much exposure to the drug as they did prior to decriminalization.

The anti-marijuana lobby in the US has produced data that shows that states in that country that legalized recreational marijuana have seen escalating use and increased hospitalizations because of the drug. Such findings shouldn’t provoke hysteria. And the response shouldn’t be left to the pro-marijuana lobby which goes to the other extreme to find virtue in their drug of choice. The response must be increased emphasis on educating people, especially the young.

Too much emphasis was placed on marijuana as a new growth industry. To appease those who were against legalizing it the government proposed some new laws that actually alienated marijuana users. Some of the new laws, and penalties for infractions actually made it more difficult for users than the law that decriminalized 10 grams. One proposed law called for marijuana users to be licensed. Not all homosexuals want the world to know that they are gay. Not all marijuana smokers want it announced from the rooftops that they like the herb.

It can’t be that we are pleased with the status quo. If we applied ourselves as diligently to make laws for an industry not aimed at export, as we did to make a new growth industry, we could greatly ease the tension caused by the drug’s present status. And there are economic benefits to be had from legalizing it, growing weed with approved licenses, and selling it with approved licenses. Importantly, it would engender respect for a segment of our society that has been marginalized and forced into crime because of the extreme bias against the drug. Come on, GOB, you don’t have to advertise it. You know the right thing to do: legalize it.

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