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Letter: Gonsalves ganja stance is a breath of fresh air

Saturday, 14 September 2013 12:00 Written by  font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size

Dear Sir:

For months, attempts were made to get persons within the higher rungs of the Vincentian government structure to make comments on the issue of the decriminalization of marijuana.

Those government functionaries to this date are yet to return messages on the request for an interview on this most important issue of immense socio-economic importance to the Caribbean region.

In fact, one public servant remarked that those persons would not say anything on this topic because to do so is to them giving legitimacy to criminality. How backward is this thinking!

Vendors, bus drivers, teachers, nurses, and other persons spoken to all agreed that all Caribbean governments must examine the issue of marijuana – its decriminalization and potential medical and economic benefits, now.

It was quite a surprise to learn last Monday, September 9, 2013, of the letter dated September 2, 2013, written by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar of Trinidad and Tobago, who is the current chairperson of CARICOM.

In his letter, Dr Gonsalves wrote, “I think that it is high time that CARICOM address regionally this matter in a sensible, focused, non-hysterical manner.

“After all, the marijuana plant has a bundle of proven and potentially beneficial uses. It is true that its misuse and abuse, and the consequentially criminalization of its cultivation, possession and supply, have impacted on our people’s health, welfare, and security.”

In a region where Caribbean leaders – civic and political -- have kept their collective and individual heads buried in the sands of social, economic, and sporting issues, it is indeed a breath of fresh air to learn of Dr Gonsalves’ stance on marijuana.

Although he called for a debate on medical marijuana, it must be noted that the current laws on the statue books of the Caribbean islands dictate that there must be decriminalization of the plant within legal controls if its medical and economic benefits are to be realized by CARICOM.

These benefits will be touched in another opinion piece, but it is most disheartening to hear persons make accusations of Gonsalves playing politics.

The Caribbean is in need of its leaders taking hard, unpopular stances on issues of social and economic import, even if those positions would seem at odds with that of the USA.

If one is to look at the issue politically, it is a masterstroke, leaving the opposition unable to positively respond due to its lethargic vertical position on key issues.

It has also left the political opposition cramped in its horizontal position of opposing for opposing sake, a policy that continues to divide the country robbing it of fair, positive decision-making, which would be healthy for the socio-economic development of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

It is clear that the two issues of reparations and medical marijuana have left the opposition reeling in similar fashion like Frank Bruno from the most devastating two-punch combination from Mike Tyson.

In that fight, Bruno have showed great courage against Iron Mike going into the fourth round, encountered a different Tyson. Possessing some of the fastest hands seen in professional boxing, Tyson slipped a Bruno feeble left jab, unleashed a thunderous right body punch which caved in Bruno’s ribs, and had the referee cringing in pain, and then sent the Englishman’s head spinning into orbit with a right upper-cut.

That combination ended the fight, as a couple combinations later the referee stepped in to save Bruno further punishment.

Sadly, there is not a referee to save the opposition for the political divisiveness amongst the people will not allow this.

It would be wise for the political and civic opposition here in St Vincent and the Grenadines to look beyond the political ends of their noses, and make informed rational pronouncements in favour of both these issues.

To do so would not be in support of Ralph Gonsalves, but in support of the fight to regain lost integrity of black people on the reparations issue, and the economic survival and social wellbeing of the Caribbean region.

In the autumn of his political life, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has made two decisions that will not only enhance his legacy as a political activist, but as a leader who took decisions, though not popular, gave the Caribbean the guidance needed on critical issues.

It reminds one to think of what would the OECS and the wider Caribbean be had Tim Hector of Antigua, Rosie Douglas of Dominica, Maurice Bishop of Grenada, George Odlum of Saint Lucia, and Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines been prime ministers of their respective countries at the same time.

It is a luxury the Caribbean never has had the opportunity to enjoy, but as the last of the Caribbean Mohicans prepares to exit centre stage, the ganja stance of Dr Ralph Gonsalves is a breath of fresh air in this age of Caribbean/CARICOM foot dragging on key issues of socio-economic importance.

Robertson S. Henry
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