By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
JAMAICAN artist Richie Spice is just one of many artists who talk about marijuana use in their songs.
In the song “Marijuana Pon Di Corna”, Spice sings: “Burnin marijuana pon di corna; it keep mi calma; it mek mi smarta; burnin on di highway; it’s di highest grade gettin to ma head.”
While Spice’s attitude with respect to marijuana stands in stark contrast to the efforts of law enforcement and other state agencies, it does reflect the feelings of a large group of Bahamian and international smokers who risk large fines and imprisonment just to get high.
Because of the easy access to the drug, marijuana use is a common practice in the Bahamas. With the presence of key drug houses scattered all across the islands, users say it is as easy to obtain marijuana as it is “to buy a carton of milk”.
‘FOOD FOR YOUR BRAIN’
Marijuana user John Blaze* who spoke to Tribune Health said the only thing you need to obtain a “half bag of food” is the right slang and a bit of cash money. With just $5 you can secure a bit of “food for the brain”.
“You would be walking through a bunch of n***** standing up on a block and one would say, ‘bey you straight’, or something like, ‘you need some food bey’, and that is how you know where to find it. I have been all over Nassau to get my bag. You can get it in the ghetto, you can get in the rich neighbourhoods, you can get anywhere and everywhere because it is all over,” he said.
Local users are not deterred by the law or the negative health effects that some experts say should be a cause for concern. For example, marijuana is said to impair short-term memory, attention span, judgment, coordination and balance; it can increase the heart rate and bring about psychotic episodes.
“I don’t think that it is entirely negative. I used to smoke twice a week but now I only smoke once a month. It is a substance that is very relaxing. I use it to unwind when I am about to chill. Now it is not something that I would use right before going to work, but it does me no harm,” said Mr Blaze.
In all his time of using marijuana, Mr Blaze said he has never experienced any harmful side effects.
“I have never had problems in terms of my perception being warped or my judgment being impaired. I smoke and I drink, but no matter how much I smoke marijuana, I never experience bad side effects like vomiting as I do when I drink alcohol,” he said.
Mr Blaze also believes that marijuana should be decriminalised because the country can reap many benefits from it.
“Marijuana should not be looked at as completely negative because there are some benefits to it. It has some medical uses. I think possession of marijuana in an amount for personal use being a criminal matter is just wasting the court’s time. If a person only has marijuana in their possession that is for personal use I don’t see the sense in locking them up. And as many times as people try to regulate it, people are still going to do what they want to do no matter what,” he told Tribune Health.
“I do not think that there is anything particularly harmful about it. The majority of people who talk negatively about marijuana have never used it before or just base their beliefs on someone else’s bad experience with marijuana usage,” said Mr Blaze.
Another user, Johnny Rizzo*, said marijuana is like candy.
“Comparisons to any other controlled substance such as alcohol would make marijuana similar to candy. I think it should be accepted just as tobacco products, with limitations as to where it can be done – in the privacy of your home, designated parks/spaces clubs. I don’t agree with smoking in public generally, so that would include marijuana,” he said.
Tony Saunders* agrees that marijuana should be decriminalised simply because it is not “harmful outside of the person using it”.
“I think it should be legalised one hundred per cent because it is not a harmful drug. It is not harmful outside of the person using it. It is just like using aspirin. If it is legal to smoke cigarettes then I think it should be legal to smoke marijuana.
“I think cigarettes are far more harmful than marijuana. The nicotine in cigarettes is not bad on its own, but because it is mixed with all sorts of things that is what makes it harmful. Cigarettes are basically mixed with poison and when it is exhaled into the air and someone inhales it, it is just as though they inhaled poison.”
He continued: “On the other hand when marijuana is released into the atmosphere and someone inhales it, it is not harmful because they are just inhaling raw grass,” he said.
Despite the claims about marijuana’s positive qualities, Sheena Dames, said it should not be used.
“I do not care how beneficial it might be or how much people use it as medicine, it should not be used. It is a dangerous drug and it has some very serious long-term effects that these ‘walking chimneys’ who use it take for granted. It is not just marijuana, it is smoking on the whole. It just should not be done and its health risks should not be taken for granted,” she told Tribune Health.
*Names have been changed.