News

Public education campaign to 'Talk Di Truth' about marijuana use

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
Observer staff reporter
hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Print this page Email A Friend!


HEALTH Minister Dr Christopher Tufton says while a National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) education campaign on marijuana launched Tuesday is welcomed, stakeholders must recognise the challenge at hand and work together to change the perception of youth with regard to marijuana usage.

“This is a serious campaign and it's a campaign that's late in the day. If we were to line up on the starter's orders one would say we're running behind the ball. Others have had a jump-start on us,“ Tufton said. “The interest, excitement around decriminalisation from lobbyists, those both internally and externally, would have converged around this issue to advance its cause.

“[This] has really made this initiative much more difficult and impressionable on the minds of our young people, who, frankly speaking, are at stages of their lives where they are acquiring knowledge impacted by perception and what's happening around them,” Dr Tufton said at Tuesday's launch of the NCDA's public education campaign on marijuana dubbed 'Talk Di Truth'.

He was speaking to a contingent which included Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck, Minister of Education Senator Ruel Reid, people from law enforcement and security, non-governmental organisations and students.

He added: “There is balance that needs to be struck, and that's what we want to promote as we recognise the danger of marijuana consumption among our young people. That balance is aimed at ensuring we provide facts, and evidence to support positions we take. We have to strike that balance between the findings of trained professionals who give out resources, to figuring out the safe uses of marijuana and those who just see it as a way to get high.

“We cannot all agree and celebrate as a society the economics of marijuana and then look the other way when it comes to the effects. The balance is inclusive of protecting the minds of the future generation, even while we explore the medicinal benefits of the particular substance,” he continued.

The health minister said, too, that the need for a massive intervention was because the general perception among young people concerning the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act, 2015, which decriminalised cannabis, is that cannabis is now a legal drug to be used at leisure, regardless of location, age, quantity, and context.

However, Dr Tufton said the amended Act was passed to provide for, among other things, the modification of penalties or the possession of cannabis in specified small quantities and the smoking of cannabis in specified circumstances, and for a scheme of licences and other authorisation for medicinal, therapeutic and scientific purposes.

Additionally, statistics from the NCDA reveal that of 3,365 students surveyed, 21 per cent used ganja at some point in their life, 12 per cent within the past year, the average age for use of ganja was 13 years old, and one in five current users were at risk of becoming dependent on the substance, which is also associated with behavioural problems as well as poor academic achievement.

As a result, the health minister said the challenge is how to separate perception from reality in a way that allows reality to have the greater impact.

“There are serious implications for the health and well-being of people who use marijuana; the substance THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the chemical responsible for most of cannabis' psychological effects, impairs psychomotive performance, reaction time, perception, and has major implications for public safety within a medicinal, decriminalised and legalised context. As minister of health I have a responsibility. It is not always easy to challenge a perception or buck a trend when it appears you are a politician going against the popular trend, [but] the theme of 'Talk di Truth' captures what we have to say based on science and evidence out there. Sometimes you have to take a position that may not sound politically correct, but it is the right thing to do. I am driven by evidence and not by the hype or high,” Dr Tufton said.

The health minister said that the public education campaign is expected to implement the changes in existing perception.

“A focus group study among youth revealed that the common perceptions are that not everybody is going to go mad when they smoke, there are productive individuals in society who smoke and, even among peers, the experience with marijuana can be positive with no negative outcomes. This perception is a power of culture on young, impressionable minds. But we want to tell them the truth based on research and scientific evidence that their brains are not fully developed and are susceptible to effects of smoking and [that] marijuana usage is also a gateway to hard drugs — leads to loss of focus, affects school work and their capacity to become productive citizens in society, and worse, leads them to become a burden on society.

“Learning all you can about marijuana will help you make right choices on your path to success, your future is key. The objective is to delay youth initiation into marijuana use, as the longer you delay, the less likely you are to engage. The programme objective is to engage youth in information sharing about the facts surrounding marijuana use, communicate the importance of a strong foundation for the future by focusing on education, training, and demonstrating a lifestyle that is fun and enjoyable,” Dr Tufton said.

ADVERTISEMENT




POST A COMMENT

HOUSE RULES

1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy



comments powered by Disqus
ADVERTISEMENT

Poll

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon
ADVERTISEMENT