Cayman needs to talk about ganja laws

| 02/11/2015 | 28 Comments
Cayman News Service

Dr Marc Lockhart, Chairman of the Mental Health Commission

(CNS): The local health authority’s leading psychiatrist, Dr Marc Lockhart, believes the Cayman Islands must start to talk about the medical properties of ganja and the current legislation, which is criminalising young people. Lockhart told an audience at last week’s National Healthcare Conference that the issue of medical marijuana was complex. The active ingredient, THC, can provide treatment benefits for cancer and many other conditions, he said, but it can also precipitate psychosis.

He said there was simply not enough evidence-based research or controlled studies to show the long-term risks versus benefits of use but the country needed to begin the debate.

Dr Lockhart, who is the chairman of the Mental Health Commission, warned that the Cayman Islands could not be isolated from the debate, as he pointed to changes in the United States and in the neighboring island of Jamaica, which is poised to become the regional leader in the development of cannabis as a medicinal drug.

He said that the drug had benefits that could not be ignored, but putting aside the medical properties, he pointed to the burden that the strict local laws were placing on teenagers, which was ruining their future.

He spoke about the adolescent brain and the tendency toward risky and stupid behavior. Everyone would agree, he said, that they did the most foolishness when they were teenagers. Lockhart said he was not endorsing the use of ganja but it was time to look at decriminalisation and get the discussion moving forward. He said the benefits could not be ignored and it had to be addressed realistically.

During an engaging presentation that drew a significant crowd Friday, Lockhart explained how drug misuse among mental health patients, including alcohol, was sometimes the cause of their mental health problems.

Just like the United States, he said, the largest number of people in Cayman with mental health problems were in prison, the second largest number were homeless and the smallest group was in hospital, which was the wrong way round.

With plans for a long-term mental health facility now underway, Dr Lockhart was hopeful that Cayman could become a centre of excellence when it came to dealing with mental health, noting that more than 4,000 people were seen by physicians in the last financial year because of mental health concerns. He said the number of people suffering from mental health related illness is was not necessarily worse than other countries but with all of the advantages and beauty of the Cayman Islands, people were still suffering in significant numbers.

As government gets to grips with improving provisions, Lockhart took aim at the health insurance companies, which he said were not covering the cost of treatment for people in real need. He pointed to an emergency consultation he had with a patient before the conference who was very ill and was controlling depression with medication after losing her job and struggling to cope.  But without warning the insurance company stopped covering the cost of the drugs and the patient did not have the money to pay, so he had to somehow deal with the suicidal patient without the necessary drugs and hoped the person remained stable.

“Insurance companies need to be taken to task. I’m not afraid to do it as they don’t pay me anyway,” Lockhart said.

“Mental health patients don’t have a voice,” he added, explaining they cannot communicate their own needs when they are ill.

Investing in mental health was investing in the community because treatment allows people to contribute and be productive again, he said, but the insurance companies disregarded the patient’s needs and were always quick to refuse to cover on the basis of it being an existing condition or some other excuse.

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Category: Health, Mental Health

Comments (28)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    So 32,000 people opposed the destruction of our coral reefs in order to build a pier, but none of you will oppose the legalization of ganja? The stuff kills brain cells, it stinks like a swamp and people are willing to KILL over it. Is that a good thing? Do you really think legalizing it will BENEFIT Cayman? The unemployment numbers will raise from 1,500 to 15,000 from all the idiots being fired from work for being too high to work or getting high on breaks, etc. if this is legalized. Whatever you all are smokin’ it is messin’ with your heads.

  2. Anonymous says:

    @SSM345 i did probation not drug court for a year and posession charges were cleared but they spitefully left the refusing a urine specimen, so stop playing the rocket scientest role and stop defending this idiotic government you put into power. It takes people like you to get ill then realise over the counter drugs wont help, only mary jane lol

  3. Alter Ego says:

    The bigger problem is the gross over diagnosis and subsequent Ritalin reliance designed to line the pockets of the shrinks.

  4. John says:

    I’m a medical student doing research on this topic and I came across this news article. I can confirm, marijuana has many medical benefits that cannot be outruled. I can imagine that there’s a stigma among your people towards the plant making people lazy, but I personally smoke marijuana daily to cope with the stress and depression symptoms (used to be suicidal pre-marijuana use). I don’t like alcohol; it makes me disabled and nauseous – yet as I learn, it’s allowed at age 18.. what??

    It’s time for your country to stop stigmatizing a plant that ruins your young people’s lives.. it isn’t the plant that makes people lazy. A productive person who smokes marijuana will be productive, and a lazy person will be lazy. Open your minds, why would you incriminate someone over a natural herb?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Ive had refusing a urine specimen on my record for over 5 years… Just imagine 🙂

    • SSM345 says:

      Should have pee’d then, got clean, gone to court, behaved, went to counseling and boom, no record, that’s what Drug Court is for.

  6. Anonymous says:

    It will benefit mental patients, instead of walking up and down all day harassing the public for a dollar…they will now stay home and chill

  7. Anonymous says:

    We don’t need any more drugs, get high on the Most High!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Why was marijuana criminalised in the first place?

    Read your history and free the sensi!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I am a person who has had to cope with a mental diagnosis for many years. Never once have I had to struggle with substance abuse. I have never done illegal drugs or even drank alcohol. It breaks my heart to hear about others struggling with substance abuse on top of having a mental diagnosis.

    This is very fortunate for me and my family since I hear that illegal drugs really mess people up with their treatment. Illegal drugs and/or alcohol can really mess these folks up.They need extra support from AA and such on top of mental health persons. Finding the correct meds and therapist is VERY important for being successful at coping and functioning. But it can be done!

    Dr Lockhart and others in the mental health field are great people. They work VERY hard at helping folks with mental illnesses and even the people’s families who too face stress,

    If you are someone that struggles with a mental health issue, please seek trusted, intelligent and caring professionals to get the help you need. You are not alone.

    Yes there is a stigma. But you would be surprised at how many very functional folks who comply with their treatment of correct meds and psycho-therapy lead very successful lives because they sought help and comply with treatment.

    If you have a friend or family member or coworker with a mental health issue, please be kind and caring and gently firm in encouraging them to seek and find the help they need. Show genuine concern and be a help and not a hindrance to them. They respond to genuine love and compassion instead of fear and stigmatization of them.

    If you look closer you will discover they are really sweet and intelligent people who struggle with a condition that IS treatable. Not all persons with a mental diagnosis is a harm to themselves or others. They just need the right meds and sometimes a shoulder to lean on. Someone to tell them “this too shall pass. you can make it!” Even a smile can reassure them that you truly see them as a person and not a suicidal/homicidal freak.

    We hear so much horrible news about some people with mental issues. Truth there are many who a very lovely folks who are getting the help they need. Even giving them a simple smile or being kind may lighten their emotional load.

    • Dr. Alaweed bin Tokin says:

      “Not all persons with a mental diagnosis is a harm to themselves or others. They just need the right meds…”

      Yes, that is the point here.

      So first you say:

      “…illegal drugs really mess people up with their treatment.”

      And then you say they need the “right” drugs.

      Yes, they need the drugs that will put a dollar into the pocket of the doctor, the pharmacist and the pharmaceutical company.

      Natural plant remedies that God gave us are no good. Throw them away and buy proper medicine from the proper people. Lawmakers know what is best for you.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Agree with Dr. Lockhart here….time to take an objective view on this issue.
    The science is in….has been in for quite some time!

  11. Anonymous says:

    There are TOO Many conflicting and confused issues in this article.
    There are at least 4 issues:
    Dr Marc Lockhart is right that Cayman can join in the talks about medical ganja.
    But – that is different from criminalising of casual users (including young people who make risky decisions to abuse drugs like alcohol and ganja);
    As Dr. Lockhart said, THC can provide treatment benefits for cancer and other conditions, BUT, on the other hand it can lead to psychosis, paranoia, laziness, crime –
    and, yes, munchies and laughter are less dramatic side effects on some people.
    The many negatives far outweigh the “benefits” of Casual / Recreational use;
    yet there are many benefits for a Medicinal application of ganja.
    It will take a clear head to define and chose the best course..

  12. Anonymous says:

    ANY mind altering substance (including alcohol!!) used in the adolescent, preteen and teen age years is proven to stunt mental and psychological growth.

  13. End cannabis apartheid now!
    All the data needed on cannabis is listed below!
    Figures directly from the CDC dot gov web site
    Average numbers of deaths per year in the USA
    * Prescription Drugs: 237,485 + 5000 traffic fatalities
    * Tobacco: 390,323
    * Alcohol: 88,013 + 16,000 traffic fatalities
    * Cocaine: 4,906
    * Heroin: 3,365
    * Aspirin: 466
    * Acetaminophen (Tylenol): 179
    * Cannabis : 0, none, not a single fatal overdose in all medical history and almost no traffic problems
    All data Cited direct from CDC dot gov.
    End the lies, legalize

    • Anonymous says:

      Do those figures accurately determine the cause of death or the evolution of drug use?
      Multiple stimulants are often used and car accidents are difficult to determine.
      The equation is not as simple as you present it.

  14. Anonymous says:

    decriminalise and legalize medicinal use. do it now.
    problem solved.

  15. Anonymous says:

    zzzzzzzz…….we can’t even buy groceries on a sunday……zzzzzzzzzzzzz

  16. Anonymous says:

    Cayman needs to talk about the Education laws first and foremost.
    What is the rush to talk about ganja laws? Where is our Trade school?
    You want to fight and stand for something? Let it be for education.
    All or most of our mental Health patients are from the abuse of substance and such. Education does not require any treatment afterwards.
    Apart from the few “inbreeds” that we have that have real mental issues, show me one other mental health person that is not messed up other than from substance abuse such as Ganja. Get your priorities straight.
    It seem like this mental health institution is looking for future patients. Keeping this kids messed up is a sure way to keep a Job in this area of work. Explain how the Ganja laws will benefit the “so called mental patients”?
    Fight for it in Jamaica first if you want. Give Cayman Children a chance first at education. Too many of them are already stoned zombies.

    • SSM345 says:

      10:33 are you ok?

      “Explain how the Ganja laws will benefit the “so called mental patients”?”

      Well, by legalizing medical marijuana, they would be able to use it as part of their therapy you dimwit.

    • Anonymous says:

      What world do you live in? Have you heard how much money Colorado made from taxing marijuana in the first year? The figure is around $53 Million. Most of those funds went to education and healthcare. They have so much schools that they don’t have enough kids to fill them with. My point is…. while you are here knocking the decriminalization of marijuana for recreational use or legalization for medicinal use other countries are investing that revenue from legalization/ decriminalization into education and healthcare. The very same thing you are saying should be at the forefront. So please answer me one question. How in the world will CIG focus on Education and Healthcare (including mental illness) with no funds to even think about funding and starting a project for education/healthcare with no money to pay for it? The problem is that CIG is full of people with your type of mentality, regressive to say the least, and all they do is talk about what needs to be improved with out and actual action plan. My humble advice to you today is to do some research and learn the facts before commenting and making an AXX of yourself.

    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly! It’s almost like a plot to keep these kids high & dumb, instead of clear headed and ambitious.. seen.

  17. Anonymous says:

    A second important pre-endorsement (the first coming from Commissioner Baines) to seriously consider de-criminalizing personal amounts of Jah herb!

  18. S. Paul says:

    We don’t need to talk about anything. Just gimme the cheese and mek me smoke it, yo.

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