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Commentary: Uruguay's legalisation of marijuana will affect CARICOM countries
Published on December 16, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Hudson George

For all those people around the world who smoke marijuana, the good news is, in Uruguay, the state senate just recently approved legislation that will allow the cultivation and sale of the herb on a nationwide scale. Such a law in this South American country is revolutionary for marijuana growers, smokers and traders. It is expected the freedom to smoke the herb will attract millions of visitors annually that will bring economic gains and perhaps new health risks.

Hudson George has a BA in Social Science from York University, Toronto, Canada. He has been writing since his early teenage years and now contributes letters and articles to a number of Caribbean newspapers
So as Uruguay is the first country to legalise marijuana, it seems that the social issue has become as controversial as gay marriage, based on the fact that not everybody is happy with social issues that were not accepted many years ago as part of the norm. Some people believe there are negative effects that free usage of marijuana will have on society in terms of mental health, while others are not concerned.

However, it is no secret that in every country across the globe some citizens are marijuana smokers. And because it is illegal to smoke marijuana openly as cigarette smokers are privileged to do, the majority of marijuana smokers smoke their joints secretly in private places, where they are not visible to attract law enforcers. They always try their best to avoid criminal charges that can lead to long prison sentences and sometimes the death penalty in some countries, if they are caught in possession of the herb.

In most Caribbean countries there is an increase in the number of citizens who smoke marijuana. Based on my experience growing up in Grenada, the older citizens were not marijuana smokers. As a matter of fact, they did not have any idea that there is an herbal plant called marijuana, but over the years as people travelled from Europe, North America, Central and South America to the Caribbean islands, they brought marijuana with them to smoke as a form of recreation and they introduced it to the locals.

In addition, some Caribbean citizens who migrated to Britain and young Caribbean educated radicals who attended university abroad in the 1960s and 1970s, are also responsible for introducing the marijuana smoking culture in the Caribbean islands. I remember clearly well, as a small boy growing up in Grenada, most of the educated radicals who opposed Erica Gairy regime were also marijuana smokers. However, over the years some of them made changes in their lifestyle and they are now respected professional people, making great contribution towards society as lawyers, doctors and educators, while most of the ordinary citizens who indulged in the smoking, growing and selling of marijuana have encountered conflict with the law.

It is obvious that the leaders of government in the various Caribbean countries have to deal with the marijuana issue, as the older citizen population diminishes in numbers. As the older people pass on to the next life and the new generation of young people are exposed to the marijuana culture, very soon there will be some new voices advocating for the legalisation of marijuana, as a herbal plant that citizens can grow and sell as an economic product for trade.

With the downturn of Caribbean economy due to globalisation and the young people in within the CARICOM union suffering from high unemployment, it is just a matter of time before new leaders emerge and challenge the status quo. And even though this new generation of Caribbean people is not politically conscious, with dreams of creating socialist states in the region, it will be foolish for those in authority to believe that there will be no social unrest. Today’s Caribbean young people are very materialistic. They want fast money and North American lifestyle.

Presently, in all the CARICOM countries there is an increase in the prison population. There are more young men in prison than four decades ago. Most of these young men are serving prison time because they were involved in the illegal marijuana culture, as growers, sellers and smokers. And as the Uruguay government legalised marijuana, it will be just a matter of time before we see young people forming political parties within the CARICOM nations and promising voters that they will legalise marijuana if they are elected to office to serve the people‘s interest.

Personally, I do not smoke marijuana or tobacco. As a matter of fact, I am not a smoker and I have no intention of smoking anything in the future. However, I see changes coming very soon. Marijuana will be legalised in the Caribbean. Global capitalism is affecting third world countries and the citizens of third world countries are trying to find ways and means of surviving. Therefore, they are looking for other alternatives. But time alone will tell if the legalisation of marijuana will not affect the mental health of millions of Caribbean people.

Some health researchers are saying that drinking alcohol is more dangers than smoking marijuana. I am afraid that they are making the same mistake as leaders of those major world religions. I believe all religions can mislead their followers, when followers lose the ability to think for themselves. So many senseless religious wars are going on presently and people are dying, all because they become victims of religious deceptions.

Therefore, who am I to judge others who smoke marijuana? I do not know the reason why the plant exists and if it is unhealthy for human beings to smoke it, the freedom to smoke it will be the best method, to know what effects it has on human lives. So I believe that the legalisation of marijuana is a social experimentation. Whosoever indulges in the social experimentation, they are taking their own risk. Anyway, I will be on the outside observing.
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