Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Gordon Robinson | Huffing and puffing over ganja

Published:Tuesday | April 18, 2017 | 4:43 PM


I’m constantly dumb-founded at the hypocrisy of our public-health institutions.

The things they get into a flap over versus the things they ignore are amazing. Ganja is a religious sacrament for many; a social relaxation aid for many others; and a rite of passage for most Jamaican youth since Whoppy kill Phillup. Yet some public-health practitioners insist on presenting it as the Devil incarnate. Recently, raising alarms about alleged increased ganja usage among our youth since the decriminalisation of personal use of small amounts, Chief Medical Officer Winston De La Haye was quoted by The Gleaner as saying:
“… I’m coming across some very serious cases of the negative effects of smoking cannabis, and at a higher rate than before. Although I’m treating adults with this problem, a significant percentage are youth, and a lot are under 18 … ."
Dr De La Haye, a National Council of Drug Abuse (NCDA) deputy chairman, referred to an NCDA report and concluded:
“I'm seeing patients every day, even on a Sunday, from morning till evening. So I’m seeing the dangers first hand. When you test them for what’s causing this psychotic episode, we get a positive result for cannabis. Smoking pure cannabis can make you psychotic. That's just the fact.”

NOT FACT

No, Doc, it’s NOT FACT. The repeated and unscientific use of the word ‘I’ and the lack of specificity of “negative effects” exposes this wild generalisation as nothing more than one personal opinion apparently based on a single practitioner’s personal experience (or anecdotal evidence).
This scaremongering speculation was debunked by brilliant consultant psychiatrist Professor Wendel Abel, also an NCDA deputy chairman, who maintained the “interpretation” of the NCDA report to show a significant increase in ganja use since decriminalisation was plain wrong. Professor Abel pointed out that ganja use has been stable for the most part.
Dr De La Haye asserted:
1.    NCDA analysis shows 47 per cent of clients admitted for treatment and rehab between 2006-2011 were for issues associated with ganja use.
2.    Ganja was the main drug of impact for which clients sought treatment.
3.    More than 95 per cent of adolescents referred from schools and/or family to NCDA offices for counselling were for problems associated with ganja use.
These ‘data’ refer to voluntary referrals by the addict or his school/family. This tells me that ganja isn’t half as bad as hard drugs, whose users rarely seek voluntary treatment.

STOP THE HYSTERIA

Let’s stop the hysteria. Ganja is a recreational drug. People react differently to it, depending on their pre-existing proclivities and weaknesses. Alcohol is a recreational drug. People react differently to it, depending on their pre-existing proclivities and weaknesses. Tobacco is a dangerous, addictive drug that has killed more people than ganja and alcohol put together. Any drug given to children will produce more severe negative results than when given to adults.
The NCDA conducted a National Secondary School Survey in 2014.  Guess what it found?
-   Sixty per cent of students use alcohol.
-    Forty per cent of alcohol users had at least one drink in the past month.
-   Thirty per cent of alcohol users got it from friends or shops/vendors.
-     Fifty per cent drank at social/sporting events.
-    Twenty per cent of student alcohol users are at risk for future abuse/addiction.
So, it’s time to stop this ignorant, emotional attack on ganja, while blind eyes and empty glasses are turned to alcohol. Public-health practitioners need to check their priorities.

All this takes me back to the late 1980s/early 1990s when my client, Ms Celma Pinnock’s babyfather, died in the notorious cement silo collapse. Eventually, she received compensation for her loss, which she used to capitalise a retail business (aka ‘higgling’). Her very first stock-purchasing trip ended in more misfortune when she was stopped at the Norman Manley Airport and subjected to a most intimate, aggravating, and humiliating search by a young, male doctor who forcibly inserted his fingers into her vagina. Ms Pinnock testified that when she complained, he was curt and dismissive, essaying the opinion that she was accustomed to it.

She sued the attorney general. In 1993, a jury awarded her $2.5 million in damages. The young doctor testified that he’d done nothing out of the ordinary despite evidence that Ms Pinnock suffered severe psychiatric disabilities, including “severe anxiety, severe depression, severe phobic responses relating to travel and sexual activity, and loss of libido”.

In another case, Sharon Greenwood Henry v Attorney General (2005), Ms Greenwood-Henry suffered a similar fate at the hands of a female police officer and a doctor at the Kingston Public Hospital.
Sexual abuse? A no nutten. Substance abuse, especially ganja? Dawg nyam yu suppa!

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.