Caribbean Islands Look at Decriminalisation of Marijuana

Chief Justice Ivor Archie, of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, has recently suggested that the use of marijuana is small quantities should be decriminalised. His suggestion has been met with both support and condemnation from island residents, responses similar to the same debate in the U.S. The suggestion was made in an attempt to minimize the negative effects of treating as criminals a great many people who would otherwise be considered solid citizens and who are guilty of harming no one but themselves. There is also a growing concern over the cost to taxpayers and society of the “war on drugs” against a substance that clearly does not create the serious health conditions and damage to society that many other illegal substances do. Many people consider marijuana to be classified in the same category as a controlled substance, such as alcohol or tobacco and question why it is still criminalised.

In terms of cost, decriminalisation makes the most sense. The Economist, an internationally published magazine, recognizes the production, distribution and sale of illicit substances as one of the world’s major industries, comparable to big oil and the automotive industry. Success of the “war on drugs” is measured by the rise and fall of street prices of New York City. Drug prices have held steady over the decades, in spite of millions of dollars spent in the “war” against them. Decriminalisation of marijuana would cut those costs dramatically, though it is only one of many ilicit substances in question. Regulation and taxation of the substance could also bring in some much needed revenue to counter the expense of continuing the war against other illicit substances.

One last point to be made: it is important to remember that decriminalisation is NOT the same as approval. Once can disapprove of the consumption of alcohol without supporting prohibition, and one can disapprove of the use of tobacco without supporting its criminalisation. Similarly, marijuana can be decriminalised while still educating citizens about the potentially damaging effects its usage can have on the human body.

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