‘While marijuana arrests have declined and tax revenue has begun to flow in most states that have legalized pot, the gains have accrued most heavily to white residents, even though black Americans paid the drug war’s biggest costs, according to a statistical analysis conducted by the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit group that advocates drug policy reform.
The results in Colorado, the District of Columbia and the nine other states where recreational marijuana became legal from 2012 to 2018 have left some lawmakers and even marijuana legalization advocates skeptical of broad social-justice claims. For that reason, lawmakers in New Jersey and New York — two of the three states expected to legalize marijuana in 2019 — are now pushing for detailed criminal justice and business equity measures as part of any legalization package.” – NBC News
Yesterday members of the African Heritage Foundation (AHF) spoke to several people of various ages in the Bay Street area about their thoughts on the legalization of cannabis for recreational use. While a few people said it made no difference to them, many of the older persons engaged in this discussion said it would be a good move by government to legalize cannabis even small amounts for personal use. In the Nelson Street a shop owner said when cannabis was plentiful on the streets, crime and violence decreased around him. He went on to say that when cannabis was scarce the violence and crime would start to rise in his community.
Some youth in the area that were liming on a block did not share the same view point as the older people the AHF spoke to. One young man said “the people done got dem ting set”. He said that to say that trying to get any justice for poor people in all these cannabis talks was futile. Another young man that could not be more than 20 said, “if they legalize cannabis he could not make money”. He went on to say “what we want legal is guns”. Since we want to be like the US then legalize guns, was his point of view. More than the others his response had the greatest impact on me.
I have attended numerous cannabis talks around the island and one truth remains constant in all of them, an absence of the youth. I am yet to see an initiative that seeks to go to the youth in areas where they assemble to speak about the legalization of cannabis. Is it only at election time the people can have a face to face with politicians? Could this be due to the fact that little or no consideration is being paid to the youth as it pertains to cannabis legalization conversations? It is a fact that all talks regarding medical cannabis exclude the masses, in particular the youth. Private cannabis talks and decision making regarding policy leave a lot of room for cannabis corruption.
The legalizing of cannabis for personal use if supported by a national cannabis industry can make a difference in impoverished communities.
Creating a cannabis environment for tourist and national brand.
The government should facilitate the training of young people in the making of various bi-products from the cannabis plant. These products should then be graded for quality, purchased by government and retailed in state owned cannabis branded stores. Further to these, manufacturing spaces that produce clothing and various items from cannabis would better the financial positions of many. People could be encouraged to grow hemp in their backyards and take the plants when ready to the factory and be paid for them. Cannabis items made in a national cannabis factory would carry a Barbados brand and once again sold to tourist. Barbados could export the brand to places like the UK, Africa and Canada.
As the AHF continues its initiative, trying to get the Prime Minister to meet with the people on the matter of a cannabis amnesty, it would like to also advocate that we use the terminology therapeutic when referring to what is now called recreational cannabis.
As noted in a previous article, the AHF will be conducting an online poll that will ask the question: “Should cannabis be legalized, regulated and taxed for recreational and industrial use”? The poll will contain information that was researched from countries and states that have already legalized for recreational/therapeutic use, to help those taking the poll make an informed decision.
The cannabis conversation needs to be taken into communities around the island and it seems that the Prime Minister and her administration are more concerned with meeting the needs of big business than the well-being of Barbadians. Civil society has a responsibility to itself to seek dialogue with the powers that be as it pertains to the legalization of cannabis and its impact on them.
In a closing sentiment, I am putting it on the table that while Civil Society Organizations have been highlighted in a supposed government initiative to empower them financially, what I see is a financial payment to buy the silence of non – participation and effective exclusion in the islands governance. What organizations such as the AHF require is meaningful inclusion in conversations and the decision making process as it pertains to matters that the affect the people in the communities it represents.
Paul Rock (Simba)