Don't let all the ganja go up in smoke

Monday, March 03, 2014    

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Dear Editor,

I wish to congratulate and humbly offer my advice to the Government of Jamaica in their recent bold step towards decriminalising ganja in an effort to stimulate long-awaited economic growth.

As a scientific researcher in the field of bio-organic and natural product chemistry, I am easily captivated by plants or fungi that produce intriguing biologically active compounds. Cannabis sativa stands tall in the kingdom of plantae. It can be considered as "green gold" regards to the myriad potent natural products that have been isolated, characterised and published in numerous scientific high impact journals.

From medicinal research and intoxicating financial statistics there is no doubt whether ganja can be a catalyst for economic growth. Although the economic aroma is pleasing, we must be cognisant of the negative implications of the plant, namely drug abuse and organised criminal activities as a result of the illegal trafficking of ganja.

However, like the common salt in water, so can these negatives be dissolved and made to reappear when the solvent is removed. The solvent here would be robust regulations. However to ensure the negatives do not reappear, we should ensure strong regulations are maintained. Only licensed stakeholders should be able to cultivate, trade, process, and carry out research on the herb. Ganja farms should be on designated lands permitted and monitored by the State. Medicinal ganja should be grown separately from ganja for other uses. These guidelines are to eradicate the illegal industry and to ensure that the country benefits.

We want to avoid the typical "eat a food "or "hustling" mentality that some Jamaicans tend to display. Therefore, the Government needs to communicate this sentiment to the country as a part of the discussions regarding decriminalisation. Poor governance, political tribalism, greed, "hustling", and "eat a food" mentality have done nothing but plunge the country into economic despair and fuel the criminal underworld. As a country we continue to reap spoiled fruits from the bad seeds that were sown.

However, all is not lost, as we are once more at another cross road. We can foolishly, by default, choose the path of despair or use our brains to truly reap "economically enriched fruits". I agree that implementing "ganjanomics" with robust regulations can heal our economic wounds, but let us do so with the triple helix type economic model in mind. That is that the Government, industries and the universities should work as one to yield success. So to avoid another broken down "JEEP", before we start the ignition, let us check the engine and transmission oils, fuel, tyres and rear-view mirrors. There is a common metaphor that states that "two heads are better than one". The triple helix module has three heads, but it will not hurt to have a fourth, which is the voice of the people.

Garfield Williams





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