Are we breeding new-age drug mules?


When renowned, well-respected neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta recently reversed his stance on the medical benefits of marijuana, it set off a firestorm between those who had always placed their faith in the herb’s medicinal merits and the doubters that continue to denounce its potential elevation to mainstream status.

Even more stunning was the volte-face of Gupta’s employer, the self-proclaimed “most trusted name in news” network. CNN promptly followed up their top medical correspondent’s epiphanic proclamation with a documentary appropriately titled “Weed.” Hardly
surprising, the public reaction has been mixed, at times even comical.

Many are heaping praise upon Gupta for his albeit late acceptance, while on the other side of the spectrum the late-night comedians have been having a field day. But probably the wackiest has been the apparent knighting of Gupta by the marijuana community that has named a strain of cannabis in honor of the good doctor: Gupta kush—the new panacea!

“The attention has been pretty intense, and I was a little surprised,” Gupta admitted. “I know it’s a provocative topic, but the science is there to back it up.”

So what does this mean for our island where, for many, if one has to be honest, the drug has never been quite, well, illegal. While the police are always eager to publicize their latest busts, marijuana use remains as ever rampant, and not necessarily for its healing properties.

Earlier this year there was something of a storm in a pipe when reports surfaced that a former government minister’s son was among students arrested for possession at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College. The short-lived fuss had less to do with the herb than with the secrecy surrounding the smoker’s identity. The common
mentality among users here appears to suggest that the herb is virtually harmless while being a stress chaser. But when does it cross over into a clear addiction?

I have posed this question to a long-time male acquaintance. When I met this young man several years ago at a function he was the boy-next-door poster boy:  clean-cut, well-mannered, polite. Definitely packaged for safely taking home to mom and dad. So colour me shocked when I discovered this practical altar-boy was an occasional pot smoker. It was no big deal he said at the time. Fresh out of his tertiary education, he shared that it was a common pastime among his peers. The young man explained that he was respectful of his religious mother and limited his use to outdoors. While not a fan of any type of smoking, it altered my perception of marijuana users and its presumed deleterious side effects. It wasn’t exactly heroin or cocaine, so why all the fuss?

I ran into said individual earlier this year and barely recognized him. In place of his regularly shorn hair he now sported untidy dreads. From his very pores emanated the unmistakable smell of ganja. He now has a daughter and he shared with me that he has no issues “blazin up” around the house—even in his mother’s presence. In fact, he regularly lights up with his younger brother and sister, of whom he had once been fiercely protective.

Stunned at these admissions, I finally asked: “Don’t you think you’re overdoing it?”

His garbled response included musings of his quest for Nirvana, finding Utopia and his new-found devotion to the Dalai Lama. Or something like that. Much may have gotten lost in translation!

As I walked away, I couldn’t help but feel sad for the once brilliant and lucid mind I had once known that had, if you’ll pardon the expression, gone to pot. I wondered if all this hub-bub over legalization was really worth it and are we simply about to breed literal drug mules!




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