Clear heads required for drug conversation

It seems you can’t pick up a copy of the Caymanian Compass lately without reading something about someone who’s gotten arrested trying to smuggle drugs, into, out of or through our country.

On the larger stage, the U.S. is still trying to understand the various highs and lows being caused by liberalization of marijuana laws, most notably the legalization of ganja in Colorado and Washington state. While most of us here in the Cayman Islands were celebrating Easter, tens (possibly hundreds) of thousands of people flocked to Colorado to participate in massive “420” parties — the unofficial holiday for all things ganja-related, occurring on April 20 each year.

Researchers are in the process of trying to sort out whether legalizing ganja will result in a financial boom from “marijuana tourism,” or if any gains will be more than offset by negative consequences, such as increased drug use, secondhand annoyance or opportunistic criminal activity.

Because of marijuana’s long-standing contraband status in most first-world countries, we don’t know nearly as much about the potential positive and negative effects of the substance as we know about tobacco and alcohol. Paradoxically, marijuana also hasn’t been studied as intently as “harder” drugs such as cocaine and opiates.

Based on what scientists have been able to report, it seems that using marijuana by itself is safer than the legal drugs, tobacco and alcohol, and is far safer than illegal drugs or commonly abused prescription medications. However, marijuana is far from being completely benign, and its negative effects are greatly enhanced when used in combination with alcohol by adolescents whose brains are still developing.

That’s probably the wrong debate anyway.

The reality is that any examination of legalizing (or liberalizing) any form of drug use in Cayman should go beyond its scientific effects (positive or negative) on the human body. We must also ask ourselves what behavior, or image, do we want to encourage in the Cayman Islands?

Cayman is religiously and culturally conservative (no gambling, little shopping on Sundays) and disproportionately dependent on tourism and foreign investment for our economic sustenance. In other words, the optics of any liberalization of our drug laws are of great, even compelling, consequence.

A few of our neighbors and competitors aren’t as circumspect as we are. For example, in Jamaica, the National Council on Drug Abuse has announced its support for plans to decriminalize ganja, and the country’s Opposition Leader has said voters should be allowed to decide the issue. In Bermuda, Cabinet lawmakers are considering relaxing the territory’s ganja laws, potentially starting with medical marijuana.

With Bermuda’s economy already in a free fall and Jamaica’s image dominated by images of ganja and gangsterism, we have to question the wisdom of their officially embracing any form of the drug culture.

The Editorial Board of the Compass is far more cautious: Let Colorado, Bermuda and Jamaica leap if they wish. For now, we advise looking on as wary followers, rather than as foolhardy leaders.

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  1. Although I am not against the legalization of marijuana I actually think it’s a good idea, but I have to agree with the Compass Editorial Board on this Cayman should wait on this and observe before leaping. Having known people that smoke, drink and do drugs I personally think the negative effects of marijuana are far less than those of Liquor, Cigarettes and other drugs like cocaine and heroin. I can simply compare a Crack head who is more likely to kill, rob or rape someone to a pot head who’s more likely to smile at you and sit on his butt doing nothing. Cigarettes have been proven to be killers, they even have a Surgeon Generals warning on the pack saying that they are detrimental to your health yet they are completely legal. I have yet to see any cases of someone who got cancel from marijuana use. The history of Marijuana’s legality is hugely similar to that of the prohibition of liquor, which once legalized become one of the largest income generators in the world while putting the illegal black market traders of Booze out of business, but this didn’t happen until government figured out how to control it and insure they got their cut. Legalizing Marijuana will likely have the same effect.

    Simply an opinion, and no I do not smoke marijuana, nor will I start just because it’s legalized if it ever is.

  2. Grand Cayman has a nitch market. Cayman has established itself as one of the safest islands in the Caribbean island chain. The diving is wonderful and the Island has a wholesome appeal. Tourism is up and expected to continue to grow through 2015. Why change something that isn’t broken. Families that go on cruses don’t even want to get off the ship in Jamaica. Cayman was one of my escapes to get away from the craziness here in the states. They have legalized Marijuana, and same Sex marriage. By this time next year you will be able to marry a goat here in the states. Crime is out of control here, the family unit is falling apart with 50% divorce rates. Someone is always trying to scam you. I don’t know what the Cayman government is looking at that is causing them to take this long to decide that Marijuana is a bad idea. Please understand that people are coming to Cayman to get away from the craziness.