By Lara Pickford-Gordon
The Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago is reminding parents and guardians about the dangers of children being exposed to marijuana including second-hand smoke. It is advocating for children to be protected against its use.
During a media briefing at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre today Monday, January 13, Chairman of the CA’s Board of Management Hanif Benjamin stressed, “like alcohol it remains illegal to give children marijuana”. He added, “I want to dispel the notion because 30 grammes are now legal for adults, that we can give children. The laws remain the same with the protection of children.”
On December 23, the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill became law allowing the lawful possession of 30-60 grammes of cannabis; persons can have four plants in the home.
Rhonda Gregoire-Roopchan, deputy director Care Services stated, “If growth and cultivation practices of marijuana within the home are suspected of creating an environment that is injurious to the child through exposure to a specific hazard and if children are readily accessing marijuana.”
She identified examples which can prompt concern even when “legally permissible amounts are featured”: If marijuana use results in impairment in the ability to supervise or provide safe, stable or age-appropriate care for the child eg. exposing children to second-hand marijuana smoke; driving while intoxicated on marijuana; failing to secure marijuana or cannabis edibles resulting in easy access and likely usage by children.
Gregoire-Roopchan cited local research which found marijuana use is the second highest substance use prevalent among citizens, possession of marijuana was the most prevalent offence in the 16-18 age group. “We see that there is an increase in marijuana use among primary and secondary children according to the National Drug report for Trinidad and Tobago 2017,” Gregoire-Roopchan said.
The National Secondary Schools Survey conducted by the National Alcohol Drug Abuse Prevention Programme (NADAAP) found marijuana attracted the curiosity of 28 per cent of school-age children. “The highest rate when compared with other specific drugs,” she said. The youngest marijuana user in the survey was five years. Marijuana is the easiest drug for students to access and the most frequent drug offered to children in various settings including social events, home and school. The young people did not think marijuana use was harmful “if only used sometimes”.
The CA will be working with other state agencies and non-governmental organisations to “educate all and sundry” about the effects of marjiuna usage. He announced all laws in relation to drug use and children will be reviewed in relation to drug use in children to se what recommendations can be made. Benjamin said, “As the advocating body for children we can make recommendations to our line minister [Office of the Prime Minister Gender and Child Affairs] to the Attorney General to strengthen those laws”.
He went on, “We really don’t want people to go away with the idea that decriminalisation is a free for all there is a level of responsibility under the law as well as socially”.