by Novia John, MA (Ed. Psyc.)
Many of us are frighteningly aware of our government’s current move to decriminalise the recreational use of marijuana (or ganja) before the end of 2023.
We Grenadians should think very, very carefully about this since such an action could have very devasting effects on our young people and, eventually, on our country as a whole.
For years, research studies have found that marijuana use in teens leads to brain damage, which can include a lowering of intelligence (IQ) and problems with learning and memory. Is this what we want for our children? They have already been challenged to keep up with their school curriculums as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns and school time-sharing, during which many children across our nation — both primary and secondary — have had no (or inadequate) technology to attend classes regularly online. Let us not be mistaken: our children’s educational skills have been significantly compromised during this period, and it is clear that long-term solutions will be needed to bring the nation’s children up to the required standard. What would be the result of adding the possibility of marijuana drug use among some of our youth to this educational situation?
In Grenada, where almost a quarter of the population is under age 24, we should think clearly about this bill and what it means for the future of our young people, despite the attraction that the marijuana industry may hold in terms of money-making… as has been openly expressed by several key individuals over the last few weeks.
It is well understood in cognitive and developmental psychology that during adolescence, the young person’s ability to think about and make decisions based on future consequences is still developing. Adolescence, and youth in general, are periods of great vulnerability in children, teens, and young adults, whose brain structures are still developing toward their mature adult state and which are negatively affected by interference from the chemicals in illicit drugs, such as marijuana.
When youth are encouraged by leadership to take actions that may be detrimental to their overall wellbeing and futures, the consequences could be devastating and irreversible — because youth generally trust their elders and leaders to make decisions that will lead to their long-term benefit.
Remember that in any population, there are at least 3 types of people, regarding marijuana use: 1. those who will never use it, regardless of what anyone says, because of their own personal convictions; 2. those who will always use it, regardless of what anybody says; and 3. those who will use it only if the law says it’s okay to do so. It is this last set of law-abiding people, many of whom are young, who will be tempted to begin smoking marijuana, and they will begin a downward spiral as they enter the world of regular marijuana use that was “encouraged” by a decriminalisation law.
Not only has it been proven that marijuana is addictive, but in a research study by Linskey et al. (2006), it was confirmed that marijuana is a “gateway” drug that leads to the use of much harder drugs, and hard-drug use is conclusively associated with an increase in violence and other illegal activities in society. Is this what we want for our small, developing country?
Consider these additional research findings from the National Institute of Health (NIH, 2019) in the US:
- The use of cannabis has been linked to an increased risk of motor vehicle crashes
- Smoking cannabis during pregnancy has been linked to lower birth weight
- Some people who use cannabis develop cannabis use disorder, which has symptoms such as craving, withdrawal, lack of control, and negative effects on personal and professional responsibilities
- Adolescents using cannabis are 4 to 7 times more likely than adults to develop cannabis use disorder
- Cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of injury among older adults
- The use of cannabis, especially frequent use, has been linked to a higher risk of developing schizophrenia or other psychoses (severe mental illnesses) in people who are predisposed to these illnesses
- Marijuana may cause orthostatic hypotension (head rush or dizziness on standing up), possibly raising danger from fainting and falls
- The FDA has warned the public not to use vaping products that contain THC. Products of this type have been implicated in many of the reported cases of serious lung injuries linked to vaping
- There have been many reports of unintentional consumption of cannabis or its products by children, leading to illnesses severe enough to require emergency room treatment or admission to a hospital. Among a group of people who became ill after accidental exposure to candies containing THC, the children generally had more severe symptoms than the adults and needed to stay in the hospital longer
- Some long-term users of high doses of cannabis have developed a condition involving recurrent severe vomiting
- There have been reports of contamination of cannabis/cannabinoid products with microorganisms, pesticides, or other substances
- Some cannabis/cannabinoid products contain amounts of cannabinoids that differ substantially from what’s stated on their labels
So, despite the promise of money that can be made from marijuana (which we know has several effective medicinal purposes), we should seriously consider whether decriminalising its recreational use in our country is the best thing for us. I want to say emphatically that it is not! Let us not sell our children and their futures for the love of money, but let us be ever conscious of God, as we aspire, build and advance.
It is my recommendation that if we wish to take advantage of marijuana economically, so that the medicinal compounds in it can be extracted for medicine production (which has been happening for decades in our world), we should enact strict production and handling laws and maintain that both the unauthorised production of it and recreational use of it in the general populace remain illegal in our beautiful nation of Grenada.
Finn, K. (2012). Marijuana Use at School and Achievement-Linked Behaviors. High School Journal, 95(3), 3-13. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ970180
Lynskey, M., Vink, J and Boomsma, D. (2006). Early Onset Cannabis Use and Progression to Other Drug Use in a Sample of Dutch Twins. Behavioral Genetics, 36(2), 195-200, Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16402286/
NCCIH. (2019). Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need To Know. Retrieved from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/cannabis-marijuana-and-cannabinoids-what-you-need-to-know
NIDA. (March 2013). Marijuana Drug Report. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/letter-director