Smoke and Mirrors
The ban on cannabis concerns one of the island's medical doctors. (He requested anonymity because of his position).
This is because he thinks it is largely based on 'smoke and mirrors' and the facts about marijuana have been obscured with misleading or irrelevant information.
It troubles him that cannabis is being used to benefit people medically and economically in other societies while it remains criminalised here and most of the Caribbean.
He thinks Dominica and the region should move quickly to seize the benefits of legalizing cannabis, but doubts this will happen anytime soon.
And as the region dawdles, it concerns him that the illegality of marijuana continues to wreak havoc in society by needlessly manufacturing villainies that shouldn't really exist. For him, the movers and shakers in society need to get real. They need to separate facts from suppositions and sift truth from smoke and mirrors.
"We are at a stage now where the criminalization of marijuana is actually known to destroy people's lives," he said. "There is a supposition that people may become addicted and it may destroy people's lives."
"Right now, if an 18-year-old who is smoking cannabis, who is not addicted, gets caught with cannabis he is criminalised and goes to jail," the doctor said.
As for the contention that legalizing cannabis would increase addiction among youths, the doctor said, "It's a possible outcome, but there may be other outcomes."
Solid knowledge of the drug and its effects is limited, he said, adding that there are benefits as well as concerns.
"We should realise that the medicinal aspects of the plant are based on the chemicals called cannabinoids, which are the chemically active substances," he explained.
"Every human has an endocannabinoid system that produces the chemical substances that have the same effect on the body as the plant itself," the doctor added.
This system was only discovered in 1992 and is recognised as inherent to each human being.
"That's the basis of why the substances produced by the plant have some effect on the human body," he said.
Cannabinoids are compounds in cannabis plant sativa.
News-medical.net states that Cannabinoids interact with specific cannabinoid receptors present on the surface of cells. The receptors are found in different parts of the central nervous system, the site states.
The doctor stated that the cannabanoids produced by the human body regulate sleep, appetite, pleasure, relaxation, immunity, awareness of time, brain development and memory.
He asserted that positives and negatives exist in all things. "That's the way I look at the whole medicinal aspect of the plant.
"So if you are going to use the plant what you need is knowledge of those substances..." he said, adding that unfortunately, most of the information on Cannabis comes from recreational use from smoking.
Scientific knowledge of these substances is limited, largely because the illegality of the plant makes it difficult to conduct large and unbiased studies.
"Most of the work done was done on the negative effects because the plant is illegal," the doctor said, noting that this must be considered in an assessment of its pros and cons.
Since the endocannabinod system is mostly centred in the nervous system, there can be adverse consequences if cannabis is introduced to a fragile or underdeveloped nervous system, he said.
This is the main reason why cannabis should not be used by children or adolescents since the nervous system is still developing.
It is therefore clear that public education about cannabis is essential before legalizing it.
"But prohibiting it and destroying people's lives and making it illegal doesn't help," he declared.
The doctor said cannabis was once part of the treatment physicians gave to patients. His research shows that it only became a problem around the 1940s, coinciding with the rise of the pharmaceutical industry.
"Science was moving away from natural products and into more synthetic targeted treatment. There is also the economic aspect of the whole rise of the pharmaceutical industry," he said.
He also asked how one can justify jailing and criminalizing people for a plant that can bring economic and medicinal benefits, which other nations are making millions of dollars from.
"For me it's straightforward. It's true that there are issues of addiction, dependence, psychiatric disorders among others. But some of those issues exist for sugar and flour, those issues exist for alcohol.
"We don't lock up people for that. We find creative ways to protect and assist those who have suffered those ill effects," he commented.
While the doctor is not optimistic that the plant will be legalised anytime soon in Dominica, he believes it is bound to happen because of economics.
The economics, as he put it, relate to the cost of prosecuting and imprisoning those held with cannabis when there is so much money to be made from exploiting its medical benefits among others.
To do otherwise is to deny people relief from pain and suffering, he contended.