Editorial: Questions for the pot

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It would seem like everyone is talking about marijuana.  It has become a hot topic, for a number of reasons.  For those who use the herb for recreational or religious reasons, the move by the government to introduce the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act, 2018 was welcomed (as a first step). The primary purpose of the Act was to decriminalise the personal use of marijuana and make an allowance for legal possession of up to 15 grams or about half of an ounce.  More specifically, the amendment states that no penalty, capable of being imposed under the Misuse of Drugs Act, shall apply where the controlled drug is Cannabis or Cannabis resin of a quantity of 15 grams or less as long as it is not smoked in a public place, and those in control of a place that falls within the definition of a public place do not knowingly permit another to sell, supply or smoke cannabis or cannabis resin.
Along with allowing a quantity of 15 grams, there is an amendment of Section 8 of the principal Act which inserts a new subsection (1A) to read as follows – “… it shall be lawful for the head of a household, owner, lessee, tenant or other person having actual control of the property to cultivate not more than four plants of the genus Cannabis per household on his property.  For the record, a household is defined as “a house and its occupants regarded as a unit” and property means “land and house on which the person lawfully resides.” This leads us to our first set of questions.
Based on our research a well-cultivated cannabis plant can produce about 450 grams (or one pound) of product. Multiply that by four plants and a grower could have about four pounds or almost two kilograms of pot upon harvest. That is a lot of weed (relatively speaking). Is the possession of four pounds of weed legal?  If you are caught with that, will you be in violation of the primary act and found guilty of possession? Would it be considered an amount that falls under the category of possession with an intention to traffic?
Move along to the second harvest and we are talking eight pounds of weed in a year (less whatever the grower personally utilises). How does the law and law enforcement reconcile the allowance for 15 grams with the legal ability to grow and harvest some four pounds of weed in a six-month period?
Backing up a bit, we have to ask how is there an equality between cannabis and cannabis resin?  Cannabis resin, better known as hashish or hash, is a drug made from herbal cannabis; which is what we know as marijuana. Without getting too technical, hashish is a concentrated extract from marijuana and exists as a tar-like product. Depending on the extraction process, it takes three to six times as much herb to produce a quantity of hashish.  So, walking around with 15 grams of pot is a lot different than walking around with 15 grams of hash.
Right now, there is talk about seeking expert opinion on the push to medical marijuana but was there expert consultation on the laws that have already been passed? One response has been that the law was based on other laws but that seems to be the lazy route. Did we simply copy a bad law that was drafted by people who were not experts in the topic?  
Mind you, we are no experts in the law either. So our questions are entirely from a layman’s perspective. We welcome the attorney general or any legal mind to chime in on this topic to set the record straight.
On the topic of the new gold rush called medical marijuana, we had to smile when we heard the Prime Minister suddenly announce that the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) was interested in agriculture. Even the PM could not contain his laughter when talking about the labour party executive deciding to lease 50 acres of land to start a farm, near immediately. He chuckled to reveal that the party could even grow some “ganja” as he stated that there were some “opportunities in agriculture to be exploited”. As soon as the topic started, we knew he was going there.
Putting aside the fact that a major political party could become a major marijuana grower, the medical marijuana thing needs a lot more research and investigation so that we get it right. Rushing to hand out licences as rewards or with the hope of getting rich quick, is a recipe for disaster. Just consider, nearly all medical marijuana is grown indoors under very controlled conditions. To produce the optimum yield and a quality sufficient for medical usage, everything is controlled – light, temperature, ventilation, water, humidity, pests, etc. T­­o do that requires electricity, lots of it! More specifically, lots of cheap electricity, which is something that we do not have.
To put it in perspective, it is estimated that approximately 1 percent of all the electricity produced in the United States of America is used for growing marijuana. In California, it is estimated at 3 percent. To distill that down to something we can better understand, some estimates equate the energy to produce one kilogram of weed to driving across the United States seven times!
So, while there is opportunity, there is a need to properly research what the opportunity is and what it will cost.  Only then can we find the answers to the questions that are stirring the pot.

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