Decriminalising the use of ganja will ease the burden in prisons
Stabroek News
January 27, 2004

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Dear Editor,

So often are possessors of ganja hauled in front of the courts, and the Magistrates who have little powers of discretion under the existing law sentence them to prison. Most times these are poor, young, black people who are incarcerated in prison with hardened criminals, subject to physical, mental and sexual abuse by both inmates and prison authorities - and making life very hard for their immediate family. More often than not they leave prison worse than before.

Implementing harsh laws has not had the effect of suppressing ganja use in Guyana. Ganja is not as dangerous as cocaine and heroin or even alcohol and cigarettes. Over an 11-year period from 1984 in the UK five deaths were attributable to ganja while 1144 people died from the effects of heroin. The mortality and morbidity associated with cigarettes and alcohol both of which are legalized poisons and both of which contribute a lot of money to governments coffers worldwide are too numerous to mention.

People who use ganja do not necessarily go on to use hard drugs and ganja is not very addictive - much less addictive than cigarettes and alcohol. When I was a student at UWI many students tried ganja and most of those that I can remember are now productive and prominent people in the West Indian society.

Decriminalising the use of ganja will ease the burden in prisons and allow for a better monitoring of its use as people using it will not be afraid to come forth. Macho posturing on the use of ganja has not worked in any country. Holland and Canada have seen the light and are gradually liberalising the use of ganja - which has some proven medical benefits.

Guyana took the bull by the horns by decriminalising abortion and liberalising the abortion laws - this has definitely lowered the incidence of abortion complications.

It is my opinion that the same should be done concerning ganja.

Yours faithfully,

M Y Bacchus