Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
MEMBER OF Parliament for North West St Ann, Dr Dayton Campbell, who is a medical practitioner, on Tuesday warned against the ill and wide-ranging negative effects of decriminalising marijuana, a proposal moved in a motion by his colleague Raymond Pryce.
Contributing to debate on the motion in Gordon House, Dr Campbell made it clear that as a member of the medical profession, he had a duty to put public health first.
Despite strong arguments from Pryce about acquisition of criminal records by young men for the smoking of a ganja spliff (a small portion), Dr Campbell cautioned that studies made a direct link between the smoking of cannabis and mental illness.
He acknowledged that Jamaica could benefit from research and subsequent development of useful cannabis products like canasol and asthmasol. However, he noted that the beneficial components of cannabis could only be derived from 'unsmoked products'.
The Government MP called for research to determine whether there was a direct link between smoking and mental alterations and crime.
"A number of studies have shown an association between chronic marijuana use and mental illness. High doses of marijuana can produce a temporary psychotic reaction (involving hallucinations and paranoia) in some users, and using marijuana can worsen the course of illness in patients with schizophrenia," he told his parliamentary colleagues.
University Hospital study
Campbell said a three-month study of trauma victims at the University Hospital of the West Indies showed that ganja was the most prevalent substance found in their bodies.
"Fifty per cent of the trauma victims had the marijuana in their system," said Campbell, as against 43 per cent of alcohol found in the bodies of crash victims.
"So we have this impression that it is drinking and driving that is the main reason for some of our road traffic accidents," said Campbell, adding that the data had proved otherwise.
The North West St Ann MP also pointed out that cannabis use before sex posed a high risk factor for the acquisition and transmission of sexually transmitted infections.
Campbell argued that the Drug Court provided a rehabilitation programme for persons arrested for smoking marijuana. He said if a person charged for using marijuana agree to a rehabilitation exercise, such an individual would not receive a criminal record.
Meanwhile, leader of opposition business in the House, Delroy Chuck, warned that Jamaica should tread carefully with any plans to decriminalise ganja.
"Anything we do could have international repercussions," Chuck said, noting that the country had signed various international treaties on illegal substances.