Trinidad archbishop, who worked with young people, weighs in against pot

Trinidad archbishop, who worked with young people, weighs in against pot

Marijuana plants are seen in a file photo. In Trinidad and Tobago, lobbying continues for the legalization of recreational marijuana. (Credit: David McNew/Reuters via CNS.)

In Trinidad and Tobago, some are continuing to lobby for legalization of recreational marijuana, but Archbishop Jason Gordon said he opposes such a move.

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad — In Trinidad and Tobago, some are continuing to lobby for legalization of recreational marijuana, but Archbishop Jason Gordon said he opposes such a move.

“I have had the challenge of carrying several young people into mental institutions because of marijuana psychosis,” he said, “and it’s not a pretty sight.”

Speaking at an early June online symposium on the economic, social, health and legal impacts of marijuana, he added, “The challenge with the former law was that it criminalized people for possession.”

“Without an adequate support system, the poor, black male” was “the most vulnerable” to imprisonment for simple possession of cannabis under Trinidad and Tobago’s former drug laws, Gordon said.

“I’ve worked with lots of young guys who were charged for marijuana and understood that criminalizing them was not helpful, because … they had graduated in prison from an addict to a master criminal,” he added.

Various studies have indicated that arrests for possession of small quantities of marijuana tended to occur, most often, in disadvantaged areas.

A 2018 Caribbean Community report on regional social, legal and law enforcement policies on marijuana said, “Put bluntly (this) often translates into poor, black, male youth” being arrested.

The study linked the subsequent imprisonment of these males to the phenomena of absentee fathers and gang-related violence.

Gordon said although he supports decriminalization of marijuana, he believes the law passed last December ended up “partial legalizing” possession.

An adult may now legally possess a maximum of 30 grams of cannabis or four plants, to be consumed only at home.

“All the adult needs to do is ensure they … never have more than 30 grams in their possession,” he said. “Then, it is legal.”

Gordon once served as the director of a live-in facility for at-risk adolescent boys; he also was pastor of a parish plagued by gang violence.

He said he believes the state can do more for users and addicts.

“Expand drug courts, support addiction counseling and rehab centers for those … in need of treatment,” he recommended.

In Trinidad and Tobago, marijuana is often used socially and in religious rituals, most notably, in Rastafarianism.

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