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The Medical Association of Jamaica has taken serious note of our Minister of Justice’s announcement of the
decriminalization of ganja in Jamaica as reported in the media June 12th 2014.
Any future use of medical ganja in Jamaica must be supported by scientific evidence that has been rigorously tested locally and internationally and not emotions.
Undoubtedly, additional investment in medical research is necessary. Jamaica could benefit from the potential profits to be earned both here and overseas from a well conceived and efficient industry. The development of prescription medications such as Canasol and Asmasol by Dr. Albert Lockhart and Professor Manley West demonstrates that this can successfully be accomplished in Jamaica under the existing laws and regulations.
As Physicians we have been confronted first hand with and seen the devastating effects of the misuse of Ganja. The adverse effects of marijuana, include, but are not limited to: addiction, psychiatric disorders, and disruption of neurological development (especially in adolescents). Negative impact on all aspects of memory is also closely associated with ganja use. The ability of cannabis to negatively impact reaction time and perception plays a major role in “drugged driving” often resulting in road traffic or workplace accidents
after cannabis use. We have already seen a significant number of road fatalities in Jamaica. Cannabis withdrawal symptoms can also result in violence. Jamaica already suffers from a high violent crime rate. Many of those who smoke it are at higher risk of developing lung problems including cancer than non-smokers.
Non-communicable diseases (hypertension, diabetes, cancer, psychosis etc.) already cost our health sector billions of dollars,   approximately 30% of which is attributable to Neuro-psychiatric disorders such as depression and addiction. (WHO) The medical evidence against the social/recreational use of ganja; smoked or otherwise, is well established. Vulnerable groups like our teenagers and young person’s especially, are the most likely to pay with their health for the changes that are proposed.
Alcohol and tobacco use although legal, also cause terrible effects on the health of the user, which we are  already struggling to manage. The popularity of decisions made in other jurisdictions on this topic must be carefully studied but not necessarily followed. Our public health sector is already overburdened and underfunded. The prevention of a public health problem should be the clear focus of the Government. While we are not qualified to comment on the legal arguments around this issue, the MAJ is eminently qualified to declare that the decriminalization of ganja for personal use will cause more mental and physical health problems for Jamaicans, especially our youth.
Medical ganja development and its potential use must be pursued in a responsible, regulated and well thought out manner. It is our hope that Cabinet will reconsider its position in line with health practice and science. The issue of human rights is secondary to the right to protect life.
Dr. Shane Alexis
MAJ President