Counter productive?

| 13/08/2009

After seeing the story about the arrest of two teenagers for growing ganja I can’t help but ask myself how helpful that really was in terms of addressing the violent crime. Taking out the home-grown source of ganja will increase the importation of drugs and the associated guns and gang violence that goes with it.

These youngsters were clearly engaged in a little cultivation of what is the most widely used drug on the island. Although we have no idea what the quantities of ganja and plants were, we can guess that, as the police have not provided numbers, they were small. Hence, we can jump to certain conclusions — these two ‘ganja teens’ were probably growing for their own use and that of friends or neighbours and unlikely to be involved in a wholesale operation fuelling the current gun and gang violence.

Like it our not, and despite the islands zero tolerance of drug use, a significant portion of people in the Cayman Islands use ganja, and no matter the associated legal risk people will continue to indulge. As a result, they will seek and find that drug somewhere. The choices are limited — grow your own, buy from a local friendly grower or buy from the hardened dealers controlling the importation of narcotics and guns.

Although we cannot say with any certainty what the real cause of the recent increase in violence and shootings is – not least because the communication from the police service always seems so limited — we all know that the islands are awash with guns. As there is no gun factory here (not even in East End soon set to become the industrial heartland of Grand Cayman) we know the guns are being imported, and rather like the slave trade triangle of old, the guns are linked in with narcotics and violence.  

So by taking the local produce out of circulation we will see those young men’s customers turning to the imports (a zero sum gain for the authorities as they won’t even reap any import duty) – further increasing the coffers of the really bad guys and the expansion of their business interests.

The police were certainly justified taking these two young men into custody, not least because they also seemed to have helped themselves to some expensive power tools as well, and of course as far as the police are concerned growing ganja is illegal. However, it doesn’t mean that it is going to be in any way helpful with regards our current problem.

Outward investors, financial markets and tourists are not likely to turn their back on the Cayman Islands because two Bodden Town teenagers are developing their horticultural skills. However, they may well do so because of the regular weekend shootings that Cayman seems to be enjoying.

I have no doubt that the zero tolerators will be chomping at the bit to rip a strip off me for writing this little missive and that is their democratic right, but I wonder how many of those that think zero tolerance works have ever really sat down and thought it through logically or whether it’s just an ingrained emotional reaction?

Zero tolerance would be fine if we could get people off drugs, but while the country has made a decision to use incarceration for users as well as dealers we have virtually no investment in demand reduction and education at all. We have a very small rehabilitation centre that still doesn’t even cater to women, the only drug education programme in the schools is run by the police and discredited worldwide, the drug court does not even have a cent of its own funding, and the National Drug Council doesn’t even seem capable of printing an anti-drug poster without having a serious of strategic policy meetings and producing meaningless 1,000 page documents.

So while we take away the home grown sources of ganja and fail to address the level of drug use in the community we end up with users depending on the gangs who import their drug of choice, be it as arguably benign as ganja or as worrying as crack.

While the debate about decriminalisation of ganja has not even started here, I expect any attempt to argue the case for full legalisation will only muddy the waters of the one tiny point in this huge subject that I am trying to make. In the end, is shutting down the local growers really going to help? I suggest not and believe that every ounce of our law enforcement muscle should currently be aimed at the port and the islands shoreline in order to stop the influx of firearms.

Zero tolerance towards drugs is one thing but violence and gun crime is quite another and I genuinely believe that the majority of sensible people here would agree which has to take priority.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Colombia and many other South American Statesreceive hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from the USA to counter the drug trade, yet as far as I am aware, Cayman receives absolutely zero.

    Perhaps if we sufficiently exagerate our drug smuggling problem, we would suddenly become eligible for millions of dollars to help bolster the economy and fight the war on drugs………….this is such a great idea, I’m surprised the mighty Mac hasn’t thought of it, but then he’s far too busy trying to become Cayman’s first Dictator to realise that there is free money to be had if we play our cards right!

  2. Anonymous says:

    We have had decades of the USA led “war on drugs”, with the same failed and violence increased results. As the story goes “history repeats itself”, just see their previous attempt at “prohibition” (alcohol).

    On the other hand, we now have “evidence” based results on the value of decriminalization of drugs in a small Western country (Portugal).

    Prohibition and punishment does not work, it encourages the “gangs”, “territory” and “violence” we are seeing today.

    Decriminalize, control and TAX drugs! Use the income to effectively treat the 10% of the population that will abuse and get addicted to drugs (they will get and use them anyway) – others will be just fine and do not require imprisonment at CI$ 60,000 per annum.

  3. Anonymous says:

    "Theresa Green" re: teenagers arrest for ganja cultivation


    Mmmmm, let’s see…..are you saying you think arresting the teenagers increases the possibility of worsening violent crime related to the drug trade because  local competition with the importers stirs the drug importers to more violence in response to their competitors?  Hopefully the teenagers’ farming efforts amounted to a very limited enterprise and not a threat to organized crime…

    I agree that jail time for a first offense of miminal proportion is not indicated, but certainly education of the teenagers as to the seriousness of their actions, and perhaps encouraging their agronomy activities in more legal channels would be desirable.