Opinion: Testing marijuana

POSTED: 10/31/12 12:09 PM

We understood after making some phone calls that nobody has any idea about the quality of the marijuana people smoke on our island.
Okay, okay, we know: that’s illegal, but we’re not looking at this issue from a criminal angle here. The fact is that people do smoke joints and there is not a darn thing any law will ever do to change that.
And sure, St. Maarten does not distinguish between soft drugs (marijuana) and hard drugs like cocaine and heroin.
The thing that got us was a report in Dutch newspapers last week about the THC-content of the weed people smoke in the Netherlands.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psycho-active component of the cannabis plant. The time that consumers could say with absolute certainty “don’t panic, it’s organic” seems to be a bit behind us. That’s because growers, especially in the Netherlands, have become extremely sophisticated and they have been able to increase the THC-content of their products to levels to put it practically on a par with heroin and cocaine.
Researchers found that the THC-content in Dutch marijuana (so-called nederwiet) increased between 1999 and 2006 from 8.6 to 16 percent. The highest concentration ever measured in that period was above 23 percent.
The Trimbos Institute measures THC-content in the Netherlands on an annual basis and says that is has stabilized over the past couple of years. The average THC-concentration fluctuates between 15 and 18 percent.
A committee that examined soft drugs for the Dutch government concluded earlier this year that all marijuana with a THC-content of 15 percent or higher has to be considered a hard drug – like cocaine and heroin.
Banning nederwiet with such a high THC-content will play in the hands of Moroccan gangs that import drugs of a lower quality to Europe.
But apart from the criminal aspects, marijuana with a high THC-content is above all a public health issue: it could cause addiction and even psychosis.
All this ought to be reason enough for the Public health Ministry to take some initiative and to investigate what is on the market in St. Maarten. At the moment we simply do not know. Consumers realize of course that there are different qualities of marijuana on the market, but we figure that they measure this based on the high they’re getting from the product. But when marijuana is confiscated, nobody tests the product for THC-content. It is possible, of course, but also expensive: samples would have to be sent to the Dutch forensic Institute NFI. And that is simply not done, unless somebody who is caught with drugs denies that they are drugs. And that seldom happens.
A government that has the wellbeing of its constituents at heart would of course find a way to establish what’s what in marijuana land – if only to start an information campaign. Such a campaign won’t stop a lot of people from lighting up and getting high, but at least they won’t be able to say later that the government did not warn them about the negative effects some drugs have on their health.

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