Ganja data recently took center stage as a Jamaica Gleaner article titled "Ganja Data War" became a hot topic for everyone paying attention to the road to Ganja legalisation in Jamaica.
Of course, with Ganjagram being such a data driven organisation, we had to find out more about what is going on. (Images via Jamaica Gleaner)
National Ganja Use Statistics
Honestly, it's very refreshing to see real national statistics on Ganja use in Jamaica. Let’s try and summarize the issue described as a “Ganja Data War” between the Ministry of Health and Ganja lobbyist, Delano Seiveright. Basically Mr. Seivright questioned the integrity of the Ministry of Health (one of the most important stakeholders in the Government’s policy towards legal Ganja use in Jamaica) because of recent statements by the Minister of Health, Christopher Tufton. What Minister Tufton, who said his statements were based on data findings, said among other things, was the following: “As the Ministry of Health we cannot sanction smoking cigarettes, ganja or cho cho leaves because of the impact on the lungs.” Which I think is a reasonable stance when looking at Ganja use from a health perspective.
Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health
Tufton then went on to say, "The drug treatment programme of the ministry, primarily for persons affected by marijuana usage, and in particular since the decriminalisation of two ounces or less, has shown a 50 per cent increase in persons - young people, schoolchildren, adolescents - which raises a lot of concern for us." Again, this is a reasonable point because we have to better understand how policy changes affect people.
Ganja Use Amongst Jamaican Teenagers
If there are increased costs due to more persons seeking treatment, then we need to understand this better and create responses that are appropriate in tackling the issue. In addition to this, if the issue directly impacts the health of youth of the country then it is of critical concern to many Jamaican parents, so proper communication around this issue is critical. Mr. Seiveright's response however, was quite different from this.
Mr. Seiveright as many persons tend to do, quoted some statistics on teenagers from the United States and then went on to say, "Jamaican teens are no different, so why are they different. I am very suspicious of the data, given the position of some people, who are close to the minister,".
Jamaican Male vs. Female Usage
In my experience, Jamaican teens are quite different and should be treated as such. Beyond this however, Mr. Seiveright made the mistake of questioning the integrity of the NCDA(National Council on Drug Abuse). As a response, the Cannabis Licensing Authority(CLA) has distanced themselves from Seiveright's remarks.
This was a positive move by the CLA, and I continue to advocate for the use of local data to drive decision making.
To conclude, Jamaica is actually in a unique position because it is legal at a national level to conduct scientific research on Ganja. This is not really the case in the United States, where Ganja research is extremely limited; as a result we are seeing an influx of scientific researchers in Jamaica. Here's another infographic that I find very interesting, taken from the Gleaner articles linked to above. It validates a finding from our own data collection which shows that many Jamaicans know Ganja as a medicine first, as evidenced by the statistic below, showing that 25% of Ganja users in Jamaica use Ganja as a drink(likely in the form of tea).
1 in 4 Persons Drink Ganja Tea