by Keith Williams
The prominent Grenadian attorney, Anslem Clouden, must be highly commended for his stance on the issue of proper policy on marijuana use. As the Grenada Informer accounts in a recently published article titled ‘Renewed Call for Ganja Liberalisation’ (13/10/2017), Clouden has not flinched one iota from the position which he has held since 1992 that marijuana liberalisation in Grenada could result in tremendous benefits for the state.
But while the current brouhaha noted by Clouden about the Canadian Government’s plans to table new marijuana legislation might leave many persons thinking that the widely used herb is one of the many genetically modified products dumped on society by Monsanto and other agrochemical corporations, nothing could be further from the truth.
On the contrary, marijuana (cannabis sativa) is a divinely engineered herb given by God for the use of man (Genesis 1: 11-12; Psalms 104: 14). And the plant has been used in almost every known society of the ancient world for medicinal, recreational, spiritual and countless other purposes for over 5000 years.
It was during the 1930s that horror stories about marijuana use leading to the rape of white women by black men, etc etc began to spread like wildfire in North America and elsewhere. Ignoring the fact that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent of marijuana, is one of the most common ingredients in a whole plethora of medications, the US and Canadian governments, (probably in tandem with pharmaceutical or ‘state-sanctioned’ drug companies), rushed to classify marijuana as an illegal ‘drug.’
Thus, it came about that the illegalisation (prohibition) of marijuana became a world-wide phenomenon. And with the criminalisation of the cultivation, possession and commercialisation (trafficking) of the plant settled once and for all, the legal authorities in almost every country had no qualms about labelling a broad cross-section of otherwise law-abiding citizens as ‘drug’ offenders (with all of the consequent ramifications).
It is certainly the case that a number of individuals with THC in their system have ended up committing different kinds of infractions. Even so, it is a well-known fact that certain persons react differently to just about every genus of chemical substance. Such is the case whether the particular substance be alcohol, tobacco, penicillin, peanuts, red meat or any of the millions of flora and fauna on the face of mother earth. The scope of the problem becomes even clearer when one factors into the equation the fact that some people have addictive personalities.
Come to think of it, though, most of the housewives’ tales about the antisocial effects of marijuana use have absolutely no scientific legs to stand on. During the 1960s, for instance, Prime Minister Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago attested to a remarkable reduction in the degree of violence plaguing the annual carnival celebrations in that country with the advent of marijuana use. And the Schafer Commission, which had been appointed by US President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s had concluded that far from being a substance which renders users prone to violence, marijuana actually makes users more timid, drowsy and passive.
During the prohibition period of the early 1900s, thousands of individuals were arrested, fined and imprisoned solely on the whims and fancies of cliques of self-righteous politicians, social workers and church leaders who pretended to have privileged access to knowledge of what constituted proper human conduct. It took the better part of 14 years before such policymakers realised that regulation rather than prohibition was a far more effective policy for the control of alcohol consumption; and as the saying goes ‘the rest is history.’
While many folks might imagine that the changing attitude toward marijuana of certain persons of influence like Clouden might be the result of some kind of Pauline epiphany, the only real motive for the new policy is the awareness of the cash cow that marijuana actually is.
The legal authorities in the US have known all along that so-called drug lords like the Mexican ‘El Chapo’ Guzman had been raking in billions of dollars through their dealings in marijuana. And so, with most governments having the infrastructure and logistical capabilities already in place, there is obviously no limit to the amount of revenue the state stands to derive from the monopoly of the so-called drug trade.
And therein lies the irony in the position espoused by Clouden and his ilks. Without considering the fact that natural marijuana could be grown just about anywhere by anyone, advocates of the state-controlled marijuana policy are ‘pushing’ a system of agronomy ‘orchestrated’ through the agency of certain hand-picked operatives in which the plant would be monopolistically cultivated in a select number of greenhouses under strict state supervision.
Truly speaking, there seems to be nothing wrong with the state taking every possible measure to ensure the regulation and legal procurement of processed marijuana through government channels.
But, while such a policy might suffice for the taste and needs of tourists and other persons with a preference for hydroponically grown ganja (weed), the trampling of the rights of locals who might prefer to harvest and use their own naturally-grown crops must be regarded not only as an abominable attempt at stifling free enterprise, but also as a clear instance of governmental narcissism and could never be deemed justified.
The Chinese have a saying that ‘every journey begins with one step.’ And so, Clouden’s willingness to consider possible marijuana legislation in such uncharacteristic terms should be applauded as a welcome attempt at encouraging discourse on the subject.
Still, if the only rationale for the kind of criminal justice reform advocated by our legal visionary is to provide the government with a means of attaining its fiscal ends by catering to the needs or wants of foreigners in the face of the continued policy of criminalising other users with a penchant for the ‘real thing,’ judgment on the gentleman’s probity must be held in abeyance. For any hope of realising a more just society based on such a self-serving paradigm shift ought to be viewed merely as a pipe dream in high definition.