Ear nose and throat specialist Dr Irving Pascal
Ear nose and throat specialist Dr Irving Pascal

In November of 2018 after the Leader of the Opposition declared Team Dominica's willingness to consider legalization of Cannabis when elected, there was a flurry of public statements from ruling party officials followed by a hastily convened National Cannabis Consultation. This consultation was stunning in that it revealed a disturbing conservatism as well as an appalling ignorance of the contemporary social issues and the scientific knowledge of the Cannabis plant by the officials on the committee. During the consultation Dr. Donald Peters, Chairperson and Rayburn Blackmore, Minister of National Security promised to actively engage the public with further discussion and consultations to inform a national Cannabis policy. It has been six months and not even a whisper! This deafening silence on Cannabis liberalization from the administration in a pre-election year clearly indicates that there will be little or no debate or dialogue on pressing national issues in this election cycle.

The experience in other countries has demonstrated that dealing with Cannabis liberalization after such a prolonged demonization is indeed a complex and challenging issue. It requires honesty, transparency and informed, unbiased, diligent and committed work. This is extremely important in order to maximize benefits and minimize associated risks especially to the young and vulnerable population. It would indeed be a blessing if this silence is an admission of the lack of preparedness and competence to deal with this important national issue by the administration. They have an election to win!

Call it cynical but I think the embattled administration has accepted the advice that the political capital does not outweigh the potential political fallout among the conservative section of the voting population. This unusual silence could also signal a deeper malaise within this administration that suggests a lack of clear cohesive plans and policies in agriculture, health and tourism. Symbiotic linkages and visionary leadership in these sectors are crucial to any successful Cannabis policy in the Nature Isle. Any such policy will be challenged to 1) address strict practical and realistic regulations whether you legalize or decriminalize 2) to immediately address humanitarian issues of reparative justice such as expunging of criminal records and possible compensation 3) to act with alacrity to secure niche markets in the health, wellness, agriculture and tourism sectors locally and internationally by developing an authentic NATURE ISLAND natural brand 4) to ensure local participation and control at all stages of the industry and 5) to protect the financial assets accrued from the Cannabis economy.

Cannabis liberalization is here to stay, it can't be wished away. There has been too much related injustice and inhumanity that needs repair. Furthermore, the potential benefits to the health sector and the resuscitation of our agriculture economy it presents are much too much to be ignored. I implore those responsible for guiding the process to do the work, get the facts and muster the strength and courage to further the debate and dialogue. I do hope the politicians will not squander the opportunity afforded by the election campaign to educate and inform the population on the Cannabis issue. This would help the next government to focus on implementation of a Cannabis policy endorsed by the majority for the benefit of ALL Dominicans.

May the spirits of the ancestors be pleased.

Dr Irving 'Eipigh' Pascal