Editorial | Seiveright can’t be regulator and activist
Delano Seiveright has the reputation of being a bit of a motormouth, and he has lived up to his record with his recent salvos against the Ministry of Health, and, in particular, its chief medical officer, Dr Winston De La Haye.
The nub of Mr Seiveright's rage is data from the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) indicating that since the decriminalisation of possession of two ounces or less of marijuana in 2015, there has been a 50 per cent rise in the number of children seeking attention at public medical facilities for ganja-related illnesses. Mr Seiveright has labelled the data "suspicious" and cited a propaganda war against the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA).
He argues, also, that Dr De La Haye's position is untenable because he once headed the NCDA and would, therefore, have residual loyalty to the organisation and its advocacy against the promotion of marijuana use.
Mr Seiveright, however, has shown himself to be high on everything but science. For he has hatched a conspiracy theory of the Ministry of Health operating in the shadows of a proxy war for the NCDA. Maybe so. But the CLA board member cannot expect the public to take him seriously on his say-so alone. He must bring evidence.
The main crutch of his defence is his attempt to seek refuge in data from global trends, particularly from the United States, as sole arbiter on the credibility of the information proffered by Jamaica's health ministry. But Mr Seiveright displays his trademark naÔvetÈ by a child-for-child correlation with Americans that might ignore demographic differences.
Of course, Mr Seiveright's fusillade about perceived conflict of interest might have backfired on him as his membership on the CLA, a governmental body organised to shape and regulate the marijuana industry, apparently clashes with his posturing as lobbyist-in-chief for weed entrepreneurship. The ganja activist also forgets, it seems, that any Ministry of Health worth its salt would be concerned about, and aggressive against, the widening of recreational marijuana usage, particularly via smoking. The ministry is no enemy of medical marijuana.
While the CLA was established to oversee the expansion and formalisation of marijuana plantations and related industries across the island, some members of the Jamaican public may have misread decriminalisation as a green light to be more cavalier about the smoking of weed. The increase in cases of reports of 'ganja babies' might also be tied to greater awareness and sensitivity to the issue on the heels of decriminalisation.
The CLA, led by Cindy Lightbourne, has been quick to distance itself from Mr Seiveright's agitation. Delano Seiveright ought to realise that it is improper for him to be a sentinel for cannabis regulation and a poster boy for zealous ganja activism. He should consider the CLA's decision to shun his rhetoric as not only a rebuke but as a signal to choose where his true loyalty lies.
And on the matter of public education, it is obvious that the Government, across both the Simpson Miller administration that birthed the decriminalisation legislation, and the Holness Government, which is marshalling the industry's maturity, has not been seriously committed, at least financially, to public education efforts to stem the use of ganja. If the Government fails to put up the money at the front end, it may pay far more at the back end with hospital care and social dysfunction.