Decriminalising Medical Cannabis

We must believe that we can collectively get our act together sooner rather than later

By Jan Arden

It is no secret that cannabis or Indian hemp originates from plant varieties that have been known for millennia by ancient civilisations in Central Asia both as a source of sturdy dried fibres (ropes, etc., for bags, boats, and cargo ships until displaced by petroleum-derived by-products) but their use for a variety of pharmacological, medical, or pain-relief use were reportedly also fairly well-documented thousands of years BC.

Thailand has become the first asian country to decriminalize recreational cannabis. Pic – Forbes

A variety of whole or part (leaves, buds, flowers, seeds) plant preparations, including oils, tinctures (alcohol extracts), perfumes, topical lotions, cooked beverages (for example, the traditional bhang that Shiva devotees know) had then been around in popular culture, for both recreational use and in Ayurvedic treatment traditions and pharmacopia. However, neither pharmaco-medical scientists nor sociologists-anthropologists got around to probe further their attributed values and qualities.

Any potential medical or scientific studies went out of the window when the USA in a drive with obvious racist undertones against immigrants (mostly Mexicans fleeing the Mexican Revolution) decided in the early 20th century to criminalise what was then legal cross-border import and use of cannabis. Massive unemployment and social unrest in the US during the Great Depression stoked further resentment of Mexican immigrants and public fear of the “evil weed”.

Dangerous drug

The more ominous and threatening word “marijuana”, associated with this racist stereotyping, displaced the term cannabis. In the Prohibition era days, it became easy to criminalise: cannabis, re-termed marijuana, became a dangerous drug and its possession, let alone use, became a criminal activity with an obvious social stigma and a highly emotive, irrational, socio-political issue with international instances pressed to follow suit. Various powerful US lobbies (tobacco, alcohol, pain relief drug companies, etc.) may have edged this on, but when science bends so comprehensively to politics over almost a century the unfortunate result is what most MPs recognise today, that is, the little that is really known about how the active ingredients in cannabis work, deliver their observable effects and any addictive risks that could be associated with their prolonged usage by adults or adolescents.

It is not our intention to wade into those areas but for readers’ benefit, what is known can be summed up as follows:
(i) there are two psycho-active ingredients found or isolated among the hundreds of cannabis plant ingredients, THC and CBD, the first associated with “highs” while the second is not, by virtue of the different ways they interact with our body cell receptors, and
(ii) all cannabis plants, varieties and plant parts contain different levels of both. Backtracking in the US only came in 2018 when hemp plants, defined legally, as a cannabis plant that contains 0.3 percent or less THC, their cultivation and use became entirely legal while marijuana, a cannabis plant containing more than 0.3 percent THC, has remained criminal.

Whatever the reason for that 0.3% distinction, it has at least decriminalised hemp and liberated many research laboratories to analyse the benefits and potential risks associated with both THC and CBD and the ways they interact with our own cellular systems in many areas affecting our psychological or medical conditions.

In a perhaps prescient MT article titled ‘Legalising cannabis’ in March 2018, author Ramesh Beeharry recapped the battle against uninformed emotive political dictates, both internationally and locally, and summed up the pleadings made by NGOs and others at the Lam Shang Leen Commission for the re-legalization of cannabis, particularly as a powerful tool in preventing the spread of the scourge of hard and synthetic drugs and their devastating effects irrespective of creed, community or economic class. His “hope is that medicinal cannabis is legalized without much delay to alleviate unnecessary suffering whilst giving patients an alternative to allopathic drugs” has found a welcome positive response by Cabinet which has announced the legalisation of the medical and therapeutic use of cannabis under strict control. Read More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 14 October 2022

An Appeal

Dear Reader

65 years ago Mauritius Times was founded with a resolve to fight for justice and fairness and the advancement of the public good. It has never deviated from this principle no matter how daunting the challenges and how costly the price it has had to pay at different times of our history.

With print journalism struggling to keep afloat due to falling advertising revenues and the wide availability of free sources of information, it is crucially important for the Mauritius Times to survive and prosper. We can only continue doing it with the support of our readers.

The best way you can support our efforts is to take a subscription or by making a recurring donation through a Standing Order to our non-profit Foundation.
Thank you.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *