Tue | Jan 22, 2019

Silly stereotype - More heat on Canadian parliamentarian over claim that ganja makes Jamaicans unproductive

Published:Sunday | April 22, 2018 | 12:40 AMCarlene Davis

Canadian parliamentarian Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin has apologised for her claim that the use of ganja by Jamaicans has made them lazy and unproductive, but the firestorm she has sparked is not going away.

Economist and ganja advocate Dr Andre Haughton has blasted Smith-McCrossin for what he said is a claim that holds no ground.

“There’s no doubt that Jamaica has a productivity problem ­ we all know that ­ but the productivity problem does not stem from cannabis because not so much of the population uses cannabis. the productivity problem starts from the structure of the economy. our productivity problems are more structural than anything,” Haughton told The Sunday Gleaner.

“This is our only way to become productive. the cannabis industry is the only way for Jamaica to become productive,” added Haughton.

Haughton argues that a person who smokes ganja will react differently depending on the strain of the weed that the person is smoking.

“There are different types of cannabis that serve different purposes. so when you count the number of people in the world, there are the same number of different cannabis strains. If you are lazy, cannabis makes you lazier, and if you’re productive, cannabis makes you more productive,” argued Haughton.

Psychologist Dr Leahcim  Semaj also rapped Smith-McCrossin for stereotyping an entire nation even as he accepted how statements like the ones Smith-McCrossin made could be formed.

“It’s a widely held belief, which is evidenced based, that people who are habitual users of cannabis, one of the observable traits is lethargy,” said Semaj.

“You can debunk the whole issue of violence being associated with the use of cannabis, but the more common traits associated with it are lethargy and what the Americans call the munchies (you snacking all the time).

“Because you are tarnishing an entire country, it becomes a stereotype because many Jamaicans, including me, don’t smoke herb, and to say we are lazy because we smoke herb, then that’s a stereotype, and it’s not a good idea to stereotype people,” added Semaj.
He noted that drug testing is now almost automatic in many institutions, so one cannot assume that because someone is from Jamaica that the indivdual is not productive.

“The reality is that drug use, whether cannabis or alcohol, is not associated with high-performance workplaces. there’s no way around that, but no workplace allows cannabis use or alcohol use while on the job. so this assumption that because you are from Jamaica you are going to smoke on the job is irresponsible of lawmakers and responsible people to say.”

According to Semaj, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should issue a formal response outlining what Jamaica’s position is regarding the use of cannabis.

“Yes, it has been decriminalised, but it is not free to be used in public spaces. it’s for private use. it is not free to be used in the workplace. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should just share with her exactly what the situation is regarding the use and the decriminalisation in Jamaica,” said Semaj.

In her apology, released last Friday, Smith-McCrossin said that her comments came about as a result of a conversation she had with a Jamaican.

“I made a mistake in my choice of words in the House of Assembly and take full responsibility for that,” said Smith-McCrossin.

“I would have said the same about the impact of heavy cannabis use on any country, but because of this particular conversation, it happened to be Jamaica. I sincerely did not feel that my comments would be viewed in a negative light, but I was wrong.

“Again, I apologise for my choice of words and any impression left that this was based on someone’s country, race, or ethnicity. I am certainly open to meeting individually with anyone offended by these comments to better appreciate their perspective and ensure my words are better chosen in future,” added Smith-McCrossin.