No Rush Bvi: Medical Science Unfavourable to Pot

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The territorial conversation on the legalization of marijuana continued this week when the question was put to the Ministers of Government during an interactive radio program.

On 3 November, during the National Democratic Party’s (NDP) radio programme a resident boldly enquired about the Government’s position on the medical marijuana industry. The caller who prefaced his question by noting that both Premier Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith and Deputy Premier, Dr. the Hon. Kedrick Pickering are medical doctors asked for an opinion on the matter.

The caller told the panel of Government Ministers “We are living in a time of the Virgin Islands history when we have two doctors — one is the Premier, and one is the Deputy Premier. The doctors in the world are trying to legalize medicine marijuana, but we are not hearing anything from the Government here.”

In response to the caller’s statement, Premier Smith recommended that more information be attained before medical marijuana use is advocated in the community. In fact, the BVI Leader said: “In many other areas it is suggested that there are also some benefits, but these are benefits which have to be well selected and carefully chosen. I think that it is something that we as a community, we as a medical community will have to study carefully before we get around to using those in the community or hospital services.”

In May of this year the Territory’s youths canvassed the subject of decriminalizing marijuana during the high school debates. However, a more heated debate occurred among the audience of the competition who also presented points for and against decriminalization.

The conversation about marijuana legalization is taking place throughout out the Caribbean region. In fact, the Territory was represented recently at a regional marijuana discussion in September. The discussion which among other things examined the prospects of marijuana tourism in the Caribbean was held in the neighbouring United States Virgin Islands (USVI) by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). The key message was “move slowly and cautiously, no rush”. James Hospedales, Caribbean Regional Public Health Agency executive director urged the Caribbean as a whole to “proceed with caution, given the significant adverse effects of cannabis smoking on health and social and occupational functioning, and especially so among youth.”

SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE NOT FAVORABLE

A Harvard University site notes that “the most potent argument against the use of marijuana to treat medical disorders is that marijuana may cause the acceleration or aggravation of the very disorders it is being used to treat. Smoking marijuana regularly (a joint a day) can damage the cells in the bronchial passages which protect the body against inhaled microorganisms and decrease the ability of the immune cells in the lungs to fight off fungi, bacteria, and tumor cells. For patients with already weakened immune systems, this means an increase in the possibility of dangerous pulmonary infections, including pneumonia, which often proves fatal in AIDS patients. Studies further suggest that marijuana is a general “immunosuppressant” whose degenerative influence extends beyond the respiratory system.”

ScienceNews informs us that “marijuana may not be deadly, but there are some clear downsides. A mental juggling act called working memory, the ability to hold pieces of information in mind, is diminished in someone who’s high, 40 years’ worth of studies show. Marijuana use has been linked to cardiovascular problems, most recently in a paper in the April Journal of the American Heart Association that describes heart problems in young cannabis users. Cannabis intoxication may double a driver’s risk of a car crash, scientists reported in 2012 in BMJ. And heavy smokers can show more signs of lung damage compared with nonsmokers.”

Additionally WebMD points out that “research shows a link between marijuana use and mental health problems like depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, short-term psychosis, and schizophrenia. While it’s not clear if marijuana causes these conditions, it can make them worse.”

Medical scientists and drug agencies have pointed out that the few health benefits of cannabis come with high risk for a wide range of complications, while tested, non-addictive, safe medications that have been on the market for decades can solve the same problems in a quicker and healthier form.

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