Yarde told St Lucia News Online (SNO) in an exclusive interview today (June 23) that while the secretariat is not prepared to support or oppose the legalisation of the drug, given its mandate to provide government with advice on research on substance abuse, from all the studies and data, St. Lucia and the Caribbean at large, is not yet prepared with respect to its policies relating to the use of marijuana.
“We need to consider all of the effects and to also be able to put in place some form of measure for protection to afford individuals who wish to go that way, some kind of support mechanisms, either to prevent or reduce the potential use or abuse of the substance,” he told SNO.
Yarde believes that economics plays a key role in availability and the use patterns of the drug.
“As to how long will that use pattern continue is yet to be realised. It is something quite difficult to ascertain. And also the proposed health impact we sometimes cannot adequately predict what is going to happen. It is something that warrants great concern,” he added.
While there is no formal statistical data to state the prevalence of the use of marijuana among the adult population in St. Lucia, Yarde told SNO that a study done in 2007 with adolescents, revealed that one in ten youth abuse marijuana.
“This is pretty much on par with what we are seeing with some other countries. The impact on youth, being an illegal substance, gives food for thought.”
In that survey, St. Lucia had recorded a higher prevalence than the other Caribbean countries.
As an illegal substance, the official noted that there would be some amount of deterrent with respect to its use. However, Yarde believes that if marijuana is legalised or decriminalised it means that the probability for individuals who otherwise would not have used the illegal substance, would have the liberty to go on a trial basis and therefore in the initial stages of that reaction, there will be a spike in its use.
“This is not something that will be new or novel in St Lucia. In every state or country where a drug specifically marijuana has been legalised or decriminalised this is exactly the same patterns that we have been seeing for example in Colorado and the Netherlands. The trend will not be any different here,” he asserted.
A similar research, being conducted by the secretariat, will be available by September this year. This will be used for further discussion on the matter.
Meanwhile, Director of the Caribbean Drug and Alcohol Research Institute, Dr. Marcus Day had told the media that the present administration in Saint Lucia needs to consider legalising the use of marijuana. Dr. Day believes that people, particularly young men, should not be punished for smoking small quantities of marijuana.
He has called for an update from the recently established Caricom Commission to investigate the pros and cons of the decriminalisation of the drug in the region.
Uruguay recently legalised marijuana use. That country joined Europe as well as the U.S States of Washington and Colorado.