Ganja lobby wrong

De La Haye counters claim he's anti-marijuana

BY KIMBERLEY
HIBBERT
Observer staff reporter
hibberyk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, May 15, 2017



THE Ministry of Health (MoH) has indicated that it has begun taking steps to change the schedule class of marijuana to effect amendments to international treaties concerning the drug.Chief Medical Officer Dr Winston De La Haye made the disclosure at last week's post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House after being asked to respond to accusations of him being labelled by ganja lobbyists as “anti-marijuana”.

“They are wrong. We are lobbying to have it removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act that lists it as a criminal and narcotics substance,” he said.

Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act is the most tightly restrictive category and is reserved for drugs that have not been accepted for medical use.

In 2015, former Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton stated Jamaica's intention to participate in, and to lead, if necessary, a process in the United Nations to have those treaties amended or to reflect what he believed to be evidence available to support marijuana's strong medicinal value.

In fact, the MoH said it intends to launch a public education campaign on medical marijuana later this year targeting vulnerable groups.

Dr De La Haye said following the 2015 amendment of the Dangerous Drugs Act, the perception, particularly among youth, is that ganja is now a legal drug to be used at leisure, regardless of location, age, quantity, and context.

He further stated that this perception may lead to an increase in usage of cannabis among vulnerable groups such as teenagers.

The MoH's annual report outlines that a National Secondary School Survey was collaboratively conducted in 2013 by the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) and the Organization of American States which indicated a 20.7 per cent prevalence of marijuana use among secondary school students.

The survey also revealed that prevalence was higher among males at 26.4 per cent than females at 19.4 per cent, and highest among the 15 to 16 age group at 26.55 per cent, while the average age of first use was 12 years.

Additionally, the annual report stated that there is a worrisome reality concerning the access to and availability of marijuana among the secondary school population, with approximately 50 per cent reporting that it was available in and around school compounds.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton explained that for these reasons, guidelines have to be determined.

“There is an industry for medical marijuana, but once there is supply and demand a margin has to be determined. The MoH supports the use of extracts containing cannabis products for research and medicinal purposes, where there is specific evidence for the use of these substances for specific conditions,” he said. “The MoH does not support the recreational use of cannabis or any form of smoked cannabis products, even for medicinal use, as smoking anything is hazardous to your health. The MoH supports the use of tinctures, sublingual drops and topical solutions for medicinal purposes. We do not support the use of edibles, for example cannabis brownies, in any form as a method of ingesting medical cannabis. This method is associated with most acute emergency room visits internationally, especially in adolescents.”

While underscoring the need to identify and protect the vulnerable in society, Dr Tufton said the next step is to educate people on the drug and encourage them to exercise caution.

“It is the consensus that a public education strategy is urgently required to address the implications of these changes for various groups in our society, especially targeting youth as well as to address the wide societal perception that marijuana is a safe drug,” Dr Tufton said.

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