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Enlightenment at last?

PETER O'CONNOR Sunday, September 22 2013

In my column of Sunday August 25, 2013 — “The Lost War”, I argued for the legalisation of marijuana. I claimed that if a ban on marijuana was really what people wanted, then we should make it work, and marijuana would be banned, and disappear from our streets and homes. But the banning of marijuana has not worked, and people are aware that it cannot and will not work. The grandcharge “War on Drugs” has been totally ineffective in keeping marijuana and other drugs away from us. The “war” has created massive and deadly violence in the supply and distribution of marijuana, and forced up the price of this substance, making it more and more attractive to the distributors who kill and die for the rights to get it to the millions of users of the herb.

Huge amounts of police and judicial time are spent on running down people who use it, and more users are fined and go to jail than the people who provide it. Users do not kill people to get marijuana, and are either unaware or uncaring about the fact that people are being killed and jailed to get this product to them.

Thankfully, all of this, and more, has been noted by Chief Justice Ivor Archie in his address at the opening of the 2013—2014 Law Term last Monday. While for me the strongest argument against the War on Drugs is simply that it cannot be won, “irregardless” of how harmful any targeted drug may be, Justice Archie went further, pointing out that marijuana is a pretty innocuous drug when compared to alcohol, and I might add, tobacco. The pursuit of marijuana smokers by the police and the judicial system is an expensive waste of money and effort which has done absolutely nothing to prevent people who choose to use it from doing so. And this pursuit is quite naturally a drain on the economy. But there is another aspect which affects our economy, and that is the issue of locally grown versus imported marijuana.

Several years ago I was in Grande Riviere. It was the time when the United States Government sent helicopters here to work with our police and army to destroy local marijuana cultivation in “Operation Weedeater”. I was in the shop when the helicopters landed on the football field, and the village of Grande Riviere fell silent. Then, after a while one elderly man said “They come to mash up people garden (sic)”! This was how much of Grande Riviere, in the absence of CEPEP and URP in the area, were making a living, and buying their clothes and food for their children. So I began to ask about the situation, how did it work? Apparently a fully grown tree was sold back then for $800.00 to the persons who would dry and cure it, then sell it to someone who would transport it to “market”, wherever that was, and it would then be sold in smaller amounts to people who would divide it up into $100.00 and smaller “pieces”, and roll some into joints for smoking. “Value” gets added at each stage, and the street value given for drug busts does not reflect the value of the bulk product, nor certainly the value of the tree sold for $800.00. Some enterprising investigative reporter should go out and research the prices of ganja from harvest to spliff. It would be an interesting project, and would give us an idea of the value chain, no different from any other market crop, with the grower, or farmer getting the least of the pie, just like in legal markets!

So, learning the little that they were willing to share with me, I asked if there was now no marijuana available. Oh, yes, they assured me, “You could get, but it is “compre’”. They explained—“Compressed, it come from away”. The village, like the rest of TT, suffered no shortage of marijuana as a result of Operation Weedeater, in which they claimed they had destroyed one and a half billion dollars of locally grown marijuana (albeit “street value”). Locally grown crops had been destroyed, but “coincidentally?” there was imported marijuana landing in the country at the same time!

What do you make of that? In terms of who planned it and with what information, and in strictly economic terms? Think about the “planning” aspect and tell us what you think. In economic terms we know that one and a half billion dollars (retail value) of a local crop was destroyed by foreigners who then imported the same stuff from outside to fill the existing demand. That is a huge economic blow to the country and to rural communities.

And we should still pretend that a ban on marijuana is good for us?

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