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Daly Bread: Galleons and ganja; why decriminalising marijuana should be on national agenda

The maintenance of an efficient sea bridge between Trinidad and Tobago is a very serious matter. The recent failures of the sea bridge greatly damaged the economy of Tobago and the credibility of the current Government.

Undoubtedly however, the procurement and much delayed arrival of the Galleons Passage has become pantomime.

Photo: The Galleons Passage ferry.

Events surrounding this back-up vessel was an opportunity for partisan political war over the credibility of the current Government. The PNM walked into many of the blows that were delivered to its credibility by over-promoting the anticipated dates of the arrival of the vessel. Nevertheless, comparisons of the vessel to the Titanic, are Trump-like distortions.

In the history of seafaring, galleons were a famous type of vessel, primarily used in naval warfare and for carrying treasure. An irony lies in the fact that the treasure of political capital is being carried by the Galleons Passage.

The bacchanal over the Galleons Passage—encouraged by some well-known media fire stokers to whose antics some of the media seem overly gullible—has reached a crescendo shortly after headlines preceding its arrival were screaming “Murder Crisis” and “Boardwalk Blood.”

Our murder rate is sky high and murder can be carried out with astonishing impunity. Neither of the major political parties can ameliorate this crushing problem. They lack the political will, because there is a clear crossroad of state enterprise business and corruption, perhaps intersecting with campaign and trafficking finance. The newly touted Community Prevention of Crime Councils will be egg in rock stone dance.

Photo: National Security Minister Edmund Dillon (right) trolls gang member Abdul “Krysis” Wakeel on his home turf in Crown Trace while Deputy Commissioner (Crime) Wayne Dick (background) looks on.

Moreover, there is only token acknowledgement from policy makers of the link between deplorable social conditions and violent crime. These conditions foster a gangster lifestyle, which is an alternative way to making quick money from outside the official walls of the constitutionally established, but corrupt and more bountiful, governance system.

These systems are poisonous to equality of opportunity. They rest in part upon a colonial-based, and now irrelevant, system of education. School life is playing little part in positively influencing the life of youngsters, who do not succeed within a grammar school environment, and who are provided with no opportunity to develop other aptitudes while within the school system.

What to do about the use of ganja (marijuana) is part of the inability of our Governments to acknowledge these harsh realities. The current Government refused to join other Caricom Governments in reviewing laws relating to marijuana use and possession. This refusal is an illustration of its continuing inability to see the link between the harsh realities and the so-called breeding of criminals.

These are some of the realities of marijuana use: it is regularly smoked, probably by as many as two thirds of the younger population in urban lower income groups. There is also significant use among young people in higher income groups.

Photo: Former United States president Barack Obama smokes marijuana during his college years.

The difference between the two groups is that the risk of prosecution in the higher income groups is negligible in contrast to the constant risk of prosecution in the lower income groups.

This imbalance is plainly unjust. It is both a breeding ground for rebellious dissent and a method of oppression available to be employed by law enforcement against lowly regarded urban youth.

Youths, already disadvantaged by lack of equal opportunity and unrelieved deplorable social conditions, have loaded on their backs the stigma and further disadvantage of criminalisation as a result of marijuana possession.  Once these youths fall into this trap, they become formally categorised with real criminal elements which make their situation worse.

It is backward and repressive for Trinidad and Tobago not even to consider decriminalising small amounts of marijuana for personal use. This blind spot is indicative of a larger blindness to other adverse conditions of life, conducive to feelings of alienation and the forming of a criminal mentality.

For the next six months, every sailing of the new sea bridge vessel will receive exaggerated attention. In other vessels and containers, far heftier than the classic three or four-masted galleons of old, the contemporary evil treasure of trafficked drugs, guns and humans, continue to make galleons like passage through our waters.

For me, there is no doubt which galleons passages should be scrutinised with greater intensity.

Photo: An armed and hooded bandit shows off his wares.
(Courtesy Wehearit.com)

About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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