Cannabis (SL) is a plant, which grows like a weed, unlike tobacco, which requires skillful cultivation. That is why this is so much less expensive.

Somebody took the leaves of this plant, dried them, crushed them into tiny pieces, rolled them in paper, put one end in his mouth, lit the other end, sucked in and inhaled the smoke and, the marijuana cigarette was born. He liked the feeling it gave him and, decided to share his discovery. And so, the use of marijuana spread and became the drug of choice for the less affluent members of our society.

Very little was known about cannabis but the British Administrators in Belize recognized it as a possible threat to the tobacco industry, which was a large foreign exchange earner for the motherland. They passed a law making possession of cannabis a crime, on the ground that it was harmful.

That was the order of things when Belize was a colony. Laws were passed in the best interests of the mother country. The law against the use of cannabis sativa L. was a colonial law. We should consider its merits and, revisit it, now that we are no longer a colony.

Since then, a lot more is known about marijuana. We know that it has medicinal properties and that it belongs to a family of drugs called depressants. We know that it destroys brain cells. So does alcohol. Studies done in Jamaica show that it can have an adverse effect on your physical health and, your state of mind. Certainly, it is in the best interests of the nation, that our citizens are well informed about marijuana for the sake of public health. Whether or not there should be a law making it a crime to have it in your possession, should be a matter for public discussion and resolution now.

Laws are made by our government, since Independence, for the peace, order and good government, is accord with our constitution. Marijuana users are less likely to disturb the peace than those whose drug of choice is alcoholic liquors and, they do not contribute to disorder. The drug seems to make the user indolent but, most of the users I know are productive.

It is reported that more than one third of our adult population are users of marijuana. If what is reported is true, then we have a major problem. If one third of our adult population are prepared to run the risk to their health and, are also prepared to go to jail, rather than give up a habit, this is a matter for serious concern. If marijuana use is so pervasive then, its users will have to include, policemen, public officers, politicians, attorneys, doctors, members of the judiciary and every class of citizen. It must be remarked that it would be a matter of serious public concern if 10% of our adult population are users. Why donít we know the actual figure?

I think it would be fair for marijuana users to ask our government the question. Why should we, knowing the health risks, be deprived of our right to choose this drug in preference to alcohol, which is as harmful, as a means of enjoyment? Marijuana users can also point out that alcohol is distilled and made different from the substances, out of which it is produced, whereas marijuana is the leaf of the cannabis plant. Is it because marijuana came from the natives rather than the rulers?

Amandala