Government Senator Dr Saphire Longmore has described as reckless the previous People’s National Party administration’s decision to decriminalise the use of two ounces or less of marijuana without first conducting a public education programme.
Longmore, who is a psychiatrist, argued that cannabis exacerbates mental illnesses, “both in their onset and severity”.
However, she also acknowledged that cannabidiol, which is a compound in cannabis, has significant medical benefits.
In her contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate yesterday, Longmore pointed out that there was a significant difference “when a 10-year-old smokes weed, a 16-year-old smokes weed, a 26-year-old smokes weed and a 65-year-old smokes weed. This is because of the varying stages of brain development and the varying impact cannabis can have on said brain development.”
She contended that the “young growing brain is negatively affected by exposure to cannabis with resultant effects on their behaviour and cognition”.
The senator expressed relief at the Government’s plans to embark on a public-education campaign this year, targeting vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant mothers and motorists about the dangers of cannabis.
Commenting on mental health issues in the society, Longmore said contrary to popular view, mentally ill persons are more often the victims of violence than the perpetrators.
However, she conceded that mentally ill persons commit acts of violence against members of the public, adding that the propensity to do so increases with substance use.