Commentary: Does abstention from psychoactive or narcotic substances make one less human?

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Matthew Thomas is a pharmacist and the owner of Matthew Thomas Pharmaceuticals in Kingstown, St Vincent

By Matthew Thomas

NARCOTIC: A narcotic is a type of drug that has the potential to be addictive. Such types of drugs should only be used according to a doctor’s prescription. Any other type of use is considered an abuse.

PSYCHOACTIVE DRUG: A psychoactive drug is a chemical substance that changes brain function and results in alteration in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition or behaviour.

MARIJUANA: “Chronic use of marijuana has been implicated in producing psychologic changes and production of what has been called an ‘amotivational syndrome’ characterized by diminished drive, lessened ambition, decreased motivation, loss of effectiveness, impairment of judgment, concentration, memory and communication skills and inability to set goals or manage stress.” (Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, Fifth Edition)

St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has recently passed The Medical Cannabis Industry Act. It pains to hear the level of recklessness from both sides of the House and from among the general public before, during and after the Debate. This type of recklessness, especially coming from our lawmakers, can only be interpreted to be a deliberate act of deception as they jostle for the Rastas’ vote or to simply play upon the ignorance of the electorate.

Listening to the debate, one gets the distinct impression that marijuana has now become a panacea for all our ills. Legalizing it for recreational use will give the youth the privilege of a stress free life, and economically this will be SVG’s oil boom. I hear the futile argument comparing SVG with the developed world, USA, Canada, Uruguay, Portugal, Holland, etc. Also we must ignore the UN convention on drugs.

Among some of the utterances are:

1. “Roland Patel Matthews, Opposition MP for North Leeward called on Parliament to rid itself of this prohibitionist attitude towards marijuana and decriminalize possession of up to two grams for recreational use. He also said that residents should be allowed to have up to five plants at their homes for medicinal or recreational use.” (iwitness news 15/12/2018)

In the Searchlight of 14/12/2018, Matthews is quoted thus: “I don’t believe anybody has any problem with medical marijuana because they have tried it, you have tested it even before the scientists of the world. We the people of St. Vincent have been using marijuana for centuries. So there is no question of whether or not this side will support the medical marijuana industry.”

2. “Opposition Senator Kay Bacchus-Baptiste also expressed similar sentiments in her presentation that recreational marijuana should be legalized and she used an excerpt from the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana to support this point. She also proposed that amendments be made to exclude marijuana being labeled as a dangerous drug in the drug Act. ‘Cannabis, marijuana is a victimless crime and yet we have marijuana being treated as if it is so dangerous.’” (Searchlight, 14/12/2018)

3. The News of 14/12/2018 under the caption: State Lands For Ganja Production, wrote: “’All of close to 3 500 acres of state land across SVG which are available and are suitable for cultivating cannabis for medicinal purposes are to be made available to farmers/investors in the industry. There are indications that the farmers who lease those lands will either have to cultivate marijuana for the industry or they will lose them to other farmers or investors involved in the medicinal cannabis industry… The Chief Surveyor has identified in Orange Hill 2 445 acres, in Langley Park 295 acres, in Colonarie 80 acres, in San Souci 60 acres, in Grand Sable 40 acres and Richmond 500 acres… According to the Chief Surveyor, we do have some 3 420 acres of lands that can be made available to the production of marijuana under the bill that is before us.’ Government Minister Montgomery Daniel who has responsibility for lands told Parliament on Monday.”

4. Philmore Isaacs, writing in the Searchlight of 14/12/2018 under the caption: Marijuana, Another Promise of High Life? Wrote: “I am advancing four reasons why I support the decriminalization of marijuana… Precedence and equality before the law: Firstly, no one in SVG goes to prison for the production and processing of tobacco or sugarcane from which alcohol is obtained. Why should it be different for marijuana when the outcome of their use is similar: their destructive effects on the human body?”
Isaacs’ comparison of sugarcane to marijuana is a most unfortunate parallel. It is well established scientifically that the plant (herb) marijuana is a psychotropic substance that alters the brain and is thereby scientifically and legally classified as a drug and a narcotic. When one consumes the marijuana plant, one consumes the THC directly that alters the brain. One can consume a whole field of sugarcane it will not have any effect whatsoever on the mental function. Alcohol (ethanol) is obtained through the process of fermentation of glucose from any organic material, C6 H12 O6 + Yeast = 2 (CH3 CH2 OH+ CO2) hence according to Isaacs’ argument, all root crops, corn, wheat, rice, etc can all be classified as a narcotic since they can all be processed into alcohol; so too can petroleum from which synthetic alcohol (ethanol) is made.

What will be the legacy of CARICOM politicians?

Throughout the years politicians/lawmakers and political activists have used their charisma and eloquence to con the electorate. Their target always has been slavery, colonialism and neocolonialism. Relevant as it may appear to be, they never got beyond doing just that. The economic empowerment of the citizenry is of no significance. Dr. Eric Williams, arguably the most celebrated CARICOM prime minster, head of government 1956-1981 (25 years) has not left a legacy of economic empowerment for the Trinidadian citizenry. He came to office at the time of the oil-boom.

Things were so good that Port-of -Spain was renamed “Port-and-Spend”. The constituency of Lavantille was his fortress. Calypsonian, the Mighty Sparrow stylized in song the invincibility of Dr Williams, when in the words of his calypso – Get To Hell Out of Here, he sang, “I am politically strong, I am the weight of the town, don’t argue with me you can’t beat me in John-John”. John-John is a small community in Laventille. But what is the legacy? A very high level of mendicancy, poverty and violent crime such that even those born there are afraid to live or visit.

We love to blame the British, and rightly so, for every injustice they did to us throughout the period of slavery, colonialism and neocolonialism, but we never seem able to emulate the way they were able to exploit the wealth of this island in its abundance of volcanic rock, rich volcanic soil, sunshine and rainfall. When the British handed us ministerial government in 1960, there were no less than one dozen stone crushing plants throughout the island owned and operated by the government. Today there is none.

No less than a dozen agricultural crops were exported to Britain and Trinidad also livestock to Trinidad on a weekly basis. Today very little is exported. There was a pasteurization plant that supplied cow’s milk to grocery shops on a daily basis. Campden Park Experiment Station was the experimental livestock and agrarian component for the Faculty of the Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad. We abandoned the exportation of banana to England, our main money earner for over 50 years.

To build any government project, almost everything including labour, has to be imported as is exemplified by the construction of the less than fifty-foot Cumberland River bridge at a cost of EC$13 million in which everything, except a few boulders and the water were imported from Trinidad; similarly the very poorly resurfaced South Leeward road where almost all the aggregate came from Dominica.

For a government to seek to repossess lands from farmers who refuse to grow marijuana is authoritarian, dictatorial and communist. Worse to have such a draconian piece of legislation unanimously supported in Parliament, is contemptuous, scandalously ridiculous, disgraceful and backward.

While some continue to wallow in ignorance, remember always that marijuana is not food.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Although medical marijuana production is unlikely to get off the ground in St. Vincent and the Grenadines due to intense international competition from countries years ahead us, it is still necessary to respond to the false and inflammatory remarks made by Vincentian self-proclaimed “social commentator and political activist” Matthew Thomas.

    Because Thomas is a licensed pharmacist with decades of experience, uninformed readers might be led to believe that his views are grounded in sound logic, unbiased assessment, and a good understanding of the scientific literature.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    As a licensed dispenser of licit but highly addictive synthetic drugs like tramadol, OxyContin, prednisone, methotrexate, and many others that kill thousands of people around the world every year through an overdose or their hazardous side effects, his remarks, like those of his multinational drug company suppliers, are self-serving rhetoric meant to shield truly dangerous drugs from competition from traditional, natural medications given for mankind’s use and enjoyment by the forces of evolution and/or Almighty God.

    Elsewhere Thomas as opined that, “the worst thing to have happened to the Caribbean black man, since the scars of slavery, is the inculcation of the marijuana culture” which shows a profound ignorance of the effects of a plant that has been safely used for over 5,000 years, having been outlawed mainly in the last 100 years because of mindless pressure from zealous and racist crusaders.

    Moreover, to imply, as he also has elsewhere, that a highly addictive, unsafe, and lethal opioid derived from the poppy plant — morphine (and, by implication, opium and heroin) — is preferable to marijuana again reveals a profound ignorance of the consequences of cannabis ingestion.

    To be sure, the possible mental sequelae of marijuana use are still being researched, although most studies showing serious adverse effects have been subsequently overturned on methodological grounds. But it may well be that there are negative consequences for a growing brain and maturing personality. Accordingly, even marijuana libertarians like me would not be opposed to strict quality control regulations while limiting its use to adults over the age of 20.

    But grossly exaggerating ganja’s possible mental health effects, on the one hand, while reversing its causality, on the other, is unacceptable. To be sure, persons with certain pre-existing mental conditions might be tempted to use cannabis as a medication. Some may find relief while others may experience even worse symptoms or outcomes. But normal persons using moderate amounts of marijuana — the vast majority of the 183 million users around the world — do not experience anything approached the long debunked cannabis psychosis syndrome — better known as “reefer madness,” largely and racially attributed to Mexican and Black people in America — partly because weed is not a physically addictive substance.

    More important still, using Thomas’ reasoning, we should also ban truly dangerous drugs like tobacco and alcohol that yield governments, including our own, a windfall in tax dollars while killing tens of thousands of people every year, a suggestion he carefully avoids.

    And while we’re at it, we should also ban many non-prescription drugs whose overuse or overdose can be lethal, including aspirin, long known to be a dangerous drug that kills 20,000 people a year in America and 3,000 a year in Great Britain while marijuana, by itself, kills not one since it is impossible to take a lethal overdose via smoking.

    Thomas is free to keep pushing his legal but life-threatening drugs in his Kingstown dispensary. But he should refrain from telling the rest of us not to make an informed and enlightened choice, based on our inherent human right and/or God-given free will, to ingest whatever we like so long as this does not interfere with the rights of others.

  2. Mr. Matthew is a friend of mine, so i cannot agree with you. It is his right to make recomendations as he see fit. it does not matter what mr. matthew say he is my friend and i will always agree with him.

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