It’s time for the ‘New year, New Me’ posts across all social media platforms. By this time you may have already developed an automatic eye-roll response to these posts, however, it is quite beneficial to engage in reflection and set new goals for yourself. A lot of our success will lie in our ability to understand our flaws and strengths and whether or not we choose to find ways to overcome our challenges or settle in complacency. Our thoughts and words are powerful and so our resolutions could be the key to unlocking our greatest year yet if we are willing to commit wholeheartedly to the process it takes to see them through. When we truly believe and act on the things we speak over our lives, we can create a brighter tomorrow for not only ourselves but everyone around us. In the upcoming year, how about we work on resolutions as a nation?
1.Resolve to create jobs (and opportunities in general) for ourselves as opposed resting the employment responsibility so heavily on the government and big-name companies. These outlets are becoming saturated so now is the time when we need innovators and visionaries to step up and build new companies from the ground up. We are talented people. We have gifts, skills and expertise that we can tap into and create new streams of income for ourselves. What Rasheid Sutherland (pictured above) has done with Boss Raw Media is a good case in point. He has made his love for film and photography and his management skills into his livelihood.
2. Speaking of creating new streams of income, we can resolve to appreciate career paths that are non-traditional and the individuals who find contentment pursuing them. Quite often societal pressure forces persons to believe that they are only making a worthwhile contribution to our society if they are a doctor, lawyer, teacher or some other vocation viewed as being safe and stable. Some of us are burning with passion for a career path we are afraid to pursue because of what others may think or say. It is about time that we recognize, support and appreciate the brave ones, whether they choose to gradually ease into their passion by doing it as a side job or they choose to quit their day jobs and fully commit all their energy to whatever makes them excited to get out of bed each day.
3. Resolve to support local. We can make the decision to buy products that are made here by Vincentians instead of imported items. We can do this with our food, clothes, jewelry, décor items and more. When we decide to support our entrepreneurs it has a direct positive impact on our economy and we can feel good about impacting the lives of people we know and care about. You can read about some of our great local entrepreneurs and their products by clicking here.
4. Resolve to respect the viewpoints, religions and lifestyles of others. We are diverse people and we do not always see eye to eye on the issues that affect our daily life. This does not mean that we have to hate our brother just because they chose a way of life that is not in alignment with our own beliefs. We can respectfully disagree with each other’s opinions and still live in peace and harmony.
5. The last resolution ties into this one. Let’s resolve to do away with political division. Electing capable individuals to make decisions our behalf is a big deal. However, over the years we have seen this process causes great segregation within families, communities and the country as a whole. We become vicious and hostile and we are blind to the fact that at the end of the day we ALL have to live with the outcome in any case. Whether the flag you choose to fly is red, yellow, blue or green, it is time to wave the white flag on war we fight against each other because of differing political allegiances.
6. We can resolve to take good care of our physical selves. Vincentians tend to be seasonally healthy. In the months leading up to Carnival, we are in the gym regularly and we cut out bread and eat every fruit and vegetable in site in hopes of losing weight and looking flawless in our costumes on Carnival Tuesday. After that, it’s back to chilling on the couch and eating junk more often than we’d like to admit. However, we need to come to the realization that our health is our wealth. We can work hard to build the perfect life and have it stripped from us by a disease that may have been prevented with eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. This year, let’s commit to an all-year-round healthier lifestyle.
7. Resolve to treat mental health awareness like the serious issue that it is. Too often we sweep mental illnesses under the rug and pretend that they don’t affect our everyday life. It is important for us to recognize and address problems relating to our emotional, psychological and social well-being as this could be the determining factor between a life we truly enjoy and a life that feels like torture. Let’s get rid of the stigma associated with this conversation and support and encourage persons to seek the help they need.
8. Resolve to do better with our garbage. For a small nation, we sure do create a lot of waste and we are not doing well when it comes to proper disposal of this waste. Too often our streets are littered especially with food and drink containers even in places where garbage receptacles are present. We have to change our way of thinking as it relates to this issue and each of us has to take up the responsibility to keep SVG clean. We have to be proactive in reducing waste, reusing whatever we can and recycling what we can’t. It would be great if more incentives were to be offered to companies such as All Island Recycling, that actively help us combat this issue.
9. Resolve to be more kind-hearted, compassionate and generous. Think of the positive impact we will achieve if each us performs one random act of kindness for someone else daily. Community spirit seems to be dying as we have become cold and distant from each other. Everyone’s primary concern is to look out for themselves and survive in a dog-eat-dog world. But we have the power to change this. If we spread love and positivity with our words and actions, we can experience once again the warmth and friendliness we had become renowned for. Whether it’s buying lunch for someone, donating to a charity or giving a compliment, there are many ways we can see this resolution through.
We’ll get into the next 9 resolutions in part 2 of this post. Look out for it next Sunday on the 7th of January, in the new year! (Click here to read Part 2) Click subscribe (below if you’re using a mobile device or on the side bar, at the top of the page if you are using a computer) to stay in the know when new articles are posted. Which of these resolutions resonate the most with you? Leave us a comment.
© 2017. All rights reserved
After years of planning, Arrington Burgin, a well known sporting enthusiast, football coach, and fitness instructor, has realised his dream of acquiring an innovative special taxi service, which caters to members of the public who are experiencing mobility problems.
As May 2017 comes to an end, we are pleased to share with you this story by a guest writer about the challenges she faced with a health condition that is fairly prevalent, but not well understood. May is the month in which we celebrate our mothers, and so we think it is a good time to focus on a health condition that is unique to women of childbearing age. If you have any thoughts after reading this story, please feel free to leave a comment for our writer.
For years, I suffered from terrible period pain that worsened as I got older. More so, every doctor that I went to would tell me that my experience was normal, and would send me on my way with painkillers and anti-nausea medication; none of which would work. Eventually, I was diagnosed with menorrhagia (abnormally heavy or prolonged period) when my period began lasting for 10 and often times more days.
I was tired. During my periods I was nauseous, had restless sleep, experienced severe pain in my back, stomach and legs, and spent way too much money buying feminine products due to an extremely heavy flow which was now lasting up to 14 days.
I couldn’t take it anymore! In 2013, I made my first appointment with my current doctor who sent me for an abdominal ultrasound to aid our understanding of what was happening to me. The results showed that I had several small fibroids that did not require surgery. She however placed me on oral contraceptives to regulate my period, and this helped.
A few months later, I moved to another country to pursue graduate studies; but soon after, I stopped taking the contraceptives because I was feeling better. Guess what happened? Yes, you are correct! My period started flowing heavy again and was more painful than before. I went to a doctor who sent me for an ultrasound which showed that in addition to the small fibroids, I now had a growth in my right ovary. My doctor was not sure what it was, so, I was sent for further tests including screening for ovarian cancer. Thankfully, the tests showed that the growth was only a cyst and I was treated with steroids which helped to reduce the size of the cyst and my symptoms improved.
I returned to St. Vincent in 2015 following the completion of my studies. As I was doing well, I decided not to follow-up with my doctor here. In 2016, my periods worsened and I was feeling fatigued. So, I scheduled an appointment with my doctor who recommended that I have an ultrasound and several lab tests done to determine my current health status.
While I waited for the results, I was placed on Tranexamic Acid to treat the heavy bleeding. After I received my lab results, I was prescribed Trihemic to improve my haemoglobin count and I was to restart oral contraceptives on the first day of my next period. The ultrasound showed that I had dominant fibroid nodules and an enlarged right ovary with a dominant cyst.
Over the course of several months, the cyst was monitored by several ultrasounds at different points during my menstrual cycle. The ultrasounds revealed that the cyst was increasing in size and in turn causing my ovary to get larger. In February 2017, I was told that surgery was needed to remove the cyst and most likely also the ovary that it was affecting. My doctor discussed with me that endometriosis was potentially the cause of the cyst and the other symptoms that I was experiencing.
I was scared. What did this mean for my future?
On February 22nd 2017, I was wheeled into the operating theater around 7:am. I had a myomectomy (removal of some of my fibroids) and a unilateral oophorectomy (removal of my right ovary with the cyst) via a laparotomy (incision through the abdominal wall). Surgery also confirmed that I had endometriosis.
Now, here I am with only one ovary and endometriosis. To be honest, at first I was worried about my future. Would I need further surgery? Would I be able to have biological children? Are the painful periods never going to stop? With time, I have realized that stressing about the unknown is counterproductive, it only gives me migraines! So, I take it one day at a time and I focus on the things that I can control, which include my diet and exercise.
Currently, the endometriosis is being treated with oral contraceptives which may help to slow down the growth of endometrial tissue. My doctor is strongly encouraging me to try to get pregnant soon because endometriosis affects fertility. However, I want to be married before I try to have children.
I felt hopeless as having a child was not in my immediate plans, but after talking with my doctor and much encouragement from my support system, I believe that there is hope. In the meantime, there is not much more that my doctor can do for me, except to monitor me and keep me on the oral contraceptives, pain medication, and anti-nausea medication.
I may eventually require further surgery and I face the challenge of infertility. However, I believe that there is nothing that I can go through that is out of God’s control.
Through it all, I have had amazing support from family and friends, particularly my mother and some of the most fabulous girlfriends ever. Their support means everything to me. Thank you guys so much!
End of Part One.
By: Odelia Thomas
© 2017. All rights reserved.
The SVG Rowing Association is making strides in ensuring that its athletes are motivated to perform at the highest level. The Nicha Branker led organisation received two training camps and a boat building technical session.
Then early in March, Coach Jonte James, and rowers Jaheed Thomas and Markell Holder went to Uruguay to train at The Club Mercedes, under the care and guidance of FISA expert Osvaldo Borchi and other Uruguayan coaches. This high level training is in preparation for the youth Olympic games.
They travelled to Brasilia for the South American Rowing Championships April 27-30 and return home May 02. Jaheed has been earmarked to participate in the Youth Olympic Games 2018 to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina from October 6-12th,2018.
Also during the month of March, para-rower Devin Richards from Victoria Village went to the USA also receiving training ahead of an international para-rowing competition.
While on camp, Richards was fortunate to be selected as a tester of a new para-rowing seat developed by RESOLUTE RACING. Reports indicate that his enthusiasm and demeanor inspired the coach to offer Devin further assistance in fitting him with new prosthesis. This resulted in him staying on until mid-April in Florida in this regard.
More athletes are expected to be recruited in the sport here, as Rowing St.Vincent at its base in Layou in March also received technical assistance to build six news boats for beginners. The venture was sponsored by FISA (World Rowing Federation- from the French, Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d’Aviron) and executed by their development officer over a one week period.
Rowing St.Vincent is looking forward to raising the level of competition and increasing rowing’s scope and creating camaraderie within the sport.
Article contributed by Justin Douglas. Photographs from SVG Rowing Association Facebook Page.
© 2017. All rights reserved.
CobraCamp is a fitness movement started by 23 year old Vincentian, Adriel Francois. Adriel is originally from Belair, but he eventually moved to Calder Ridge with his family. Currently he resides in Taiwan where he is studying chemical engineering at the National Taipei University of technology (NTUT). He has created CobraCamp to help persons attain their unique health and fitness goals by educating them about proper nutrition and exercise. He wants to help persons find a balance that allows them integrate physical fitness into their lifestyle and show that it doesn’t have to take up all your time or confine you to the gym.
His content is delivered primarily through his YouTube channel which currently has over 70, 000 subscribers and his following is growing rapidly. There are over 50 informative videos to choose from and he produces content both in English and Mandarin Chinese (subtitles available). The Cobra has competed in bodybuilding competitions and has the medals to show for it (see below). He admitted that even though they are not his favorite thing to do, they allow him to network and get his name out there in the fitness world.
One of the things that stand out about Adriel is his unwillingness to settle in mediocrity. This character trait was ingrained in him from a very young age by his parents. They pushed him to excel by encouraging him to give a hundred percent effort in everything he did. His dad in particular was very keen on teaching him the value of physical activity. He recalled numerous summer vacations where his TV time was limited and it was mandatory for him to go outside and play. Therefore, a lot of his childhood days were spent riding bikes, climbing trees and things of that nature. As a result, he developed a love for fitness that he carried with him right through his teens and now into adulthood.
His peers came to know him as the man to consult for everything fitness related, so throughout University he found himself coaching and sharing his knowledge. He began toying with the idea of pursuing a career in Health and Fitness, but initially shied away from it fearing that he would not be able to achieve financial stability. His girlfriend on the other hand (who he coaches), believed in his abilities and was convinced that his passion and work ethic would make a way for him to be successful. She was the one who urged him to create the YouTube page and she was there to help him during the startup stage. Since then, he has wholeheartedly taken the reins and is determined to turn heads and achieve great things with CobraCamp.
Although he believes he still has a lot of work to do, he is already seeing the returns of his labour in the form of companies contacting him expressing a desire to have him endorse their products. Ultimately, he would like to produce merchandise of his own, provide large group classes and offer a mini course that educates persons about how to be their own personal trainer.
“Whether I am studying, working, whatever I do, I plan fitness into my life.”
It takes great discipline and dedication to do what Francois does. It is no small feat to put in the time and effort necessary to achieve your fitness goals, while being a full time well-performing University student and pursing a business venture at the same time. Adriel shared that what has allowed him to get to his current position is the understanding that you cannot have your cake and eat it too; sacrifices must be made to achieve greatness. Therefore, he uses strategic planning, time management and prioritizing to strike a balance that makes him happy.
When asked about who he looks up to Francois shared that he is no longer heavily influenced by renowned fitness gurus and bodybuilders. Instead, he is focused on self-development. If he is impressed by a particular trait in someone else or how a person managed to achieve a particular goal, he studies the situation to come up with ways he can integrate those features into his own being. When he was younger, he would watch in awe as other people perform incredible stunts like ‘the flag’ (pictured below) and eventually he got tired of just admiring. He made a conscious effort to become what he admires.
“This [CobraCamp] is my escape plan… I am trying to have a life where my work hours are not fixed, I can support myself financially and I get to do what I’m really passionate about.”
As mentioned before, Adriel is currently pursuing a degree in chemical engineering, but he says he would only settle on a career in this field if he absolutely has to. To him, that career path comes with rigidity and mundaneness and that sort of restriction is what he longs to evade. He regards his degree as a plan B and is doing everything in his power to make CobraCamp a successful Plan A. If things continue the way they have been going for him, there’s much to look forward to from this exceptional young man.
© 2017. All rights reserved.
When it comes to homicides in St. Vincent, the latter part of 2016 felt like a bad dream. Too often we found ourselves exclaiming “Another one again!” and trudging through the days with heavy hearts. If you reflect on the details of each incident, it becomes clear that it was our Vincentian men who were involved in the majority of these homicides, and in addition to these incidents, a number of lives were claimed by vehicular accidents and other unfortunate events, most of them being our young men.
With the fact sheet painting such a poor picture, our faith in our Vincentian men is definitely being tested and it’s easy to become engrossed in despair. However, all hope is not lost. We still have males in our society who are visionaries, change makers, and positive influencers.
We would like to use this platform to help shift your focus to these outstanding individuals through a series of articles that will highlight the efforts and achievements of the men who are making (or have made) an important impact on life in SVG. Our hope is that this will inspire our Vincentian men to “have a dream” like Martin Luther King Jr., create innovative products by thinking outside the box like Steve Jobs did, or even aim to unite people by stringing lyrics over guitar riffs, bass lines and chords like Bob Marley.
Our first featured individual is Earl “Ole George” Daniel who will be hanging up his boots after one final walk. Be sure to leave us comments and let us know who makes you proud to be Vincy!
Vincentian world record holder Earl “Ole George” Daniel has returned home for a final long distance walk. Daniel, who currently resides in Montreal, Canada, is part of a group of overseas based Vincentians that are looking to make a difference where HIV/AIDS and other health related issues.
George has returned to his homeland to deliver care packages to those in need, and to take it ‘a step further,’ by doing a three day walk, from February 3rd to 5th. This walk, according to Daniel, will be his way of saying goodbye to an exciting career of distance walking.
“What better way to do it than for a worthy cause and in the presence of the very people who were there to witness the first historic event,” said Ole George.
He further stated that this walk will be done with walking partner Joel Butcher, who walked with him from 2005-2008. He said that the walk will be his way of helping to bring much needed attention to the rising cases of HIV-AIDS, Diabetes, and also Mental Health.
“The Group is called ‘WE VINCY’ and was newly formed in Montreal, and is comprised of Vincentians who share the same concern for persons living with HIV-AIDS and Diabetes in St Vincent, and who have Mental Health Issues.
“We hope that our efforts will serve to improve the standard of living to these people and bring some hope to their world.”
“We have embarked on collecting food items and whatever else that is needed to make life easier for them. We are also going to be propagating the message of a healthier lifestyle while we are at it.” Daniel said.
“After several conversations with Sydney Joseph, better known as “Pumpkin” some time last year, I decided to bring the group together. Pumpkin, as you know is HIV positive and is St Vincent’s leading HIV/AIDS activist. We decided to mobilize and get some items together to send to persons affected by HIV/AIDS. These items will be delivered when I come home for the second part of the exercise,” Daniel added.
Other members of the group include Steve “Daddy Ghost” Victory, Monica Homer, Stephany Etienne, Hilton Smith, Garvey Thomas, among others.
Daniel who is a trained clinical social worker and who currently works in the Arctic Region of Quebec, Canada among the Inuit people, said that this walk will be very significant, and he hopes that all Vincentians will come out to salute him and Butcher as they walk through their communities.
“It will be the end of a very exciting era and certainly the closing chapter of a very important part of Vincentian history” he added.
Ole George and Joel Butcher are to walk from the windward and leeward ends of mainland St Vincent, with ventures into the Marriaqua and Vermont Valleys, to be followed by a rally at Victoria Park.
“The rally will be about bringing awareness to the HIV-AIDS situation in St. Vincent and also to encourage a healthier lifestyle so as to prevent more cases of Diabetes. There will also be a focus on Mental Health. The overall message here would be we need to be our brother’s keeper,” said Daniel.
“I believe there is a void where HIV-AIDS education and awareness is concerned, and I am hoping to make some inroads into that, along with Pumpkin and other like minded persons who will be participating in this exercise.”
“I am encouraging all walking groups/clubs, sporting organizations, health enthusiasts and anyone who is concerned about the present health situation in the country to come out and join us as we walk. Let’s do this together!”
George accomplished similar feats in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007, here at home and has walked in several Caribbean Islands (Jamaica, Grenada, St. Lucia Barbados), with the biggest of his walks being one in 2008 in Brooklyn, New York, USA, when he and Butcher walked around Prospect park for 8 straight days, challenging the Guinness World Record for the longest walk without sleep.
In 2012, George completed a five and a half day dance marathon in Nunavik, Northern Canada, to bring awareness to suicide in the region.
“It’s my hope that what we are about to embark on would bring the much needed attention to these very important health issues in my homeland, and that people will see that these issues affect us all.”
“There is a slogan which I have coined that I hope will be etched forever on the minds of every Vincentian ‘My Mosquito Is Your Mosquito’; it means that if something affects me it can and may eventually affect you too, so don’t wait until it comes your way before proactively dealing with it. The young man or woman who is HIV positive and you may think is none of your concern, may be the same person who can end up dating your son or daughter. We all have to act together to get these issues under control.”
George is appealing for others to come on board with this initiative, and to contribute of their time, talent, and treasures, in an effort to make the initiative a success.
My first memory of Christmas was when we lived in Layou, that coastal village town on the south western tip of St. Vincent. We lived in a two-storied house that was fashionable at that time: made of concrete downstairs and a wooden upstairs. It was located just around the bend past that delicate little stone-wall church in the corner as you entered the village from the Kingstown direction. Our neighbours were the Palmers.
Mommy had boiled the picnic ham, then baked it in the outside drum-oven; the ham was golden brown with cloves stuck artfully into its tender skin. My big brother was tasked with taking it upstairs, having to walk up the flight of concrete stairs. He might have tried to pick a piece of the loose meat, or maybe he was overwhelmed by the honour bestowed upon him; either way, the next I remember, we all squealed with horror and anger, as the dainty ham came crushing down to the sandy ground.
There is a gap in my memory in regards to the rest of that day, but we must have all recovered well from the trauma of the tumbling ham; because the next I remember, was me lying in bed, feeling very full as my mother gently massaged my tummy with a feather. She sang a verse that I recall up to this day:
“Kerry belly swell, Kerry belly swell,”
There was little more to the song; but I understood that the intention was to relieve my indigestion that had come about due to overeating and I assume, over drinking.
I have had the pleasure of singing the ‘Belly Swell’ Song for my own daughters, when they too, as little girls had fallen captive to the indulgence of the Vincentian Christmas Lunch/Dinner and had ended up with distended tummies.
Yet, to do otherwise is simply not considered appropriate at Christmas: even for those of us who are now mature and have transformed from the skinniness of childhood and early adulthood, to a more almost rotund body stature.
We may vow to cut down on our portion sizes, but there are simply too many savoury dishes to be sampled; then the Fruit Cake, Black Cake, Sorrel, Ginger-beer; Red Wine, Black Wine, and all the other culinary delights which tempt our appetites, enticing us to try just a little bit of this and a little sip of that.
It is what it is, and so in spite of breaking all my preset dietary rules for Christmas 2016, I’m thankful for the feelings of pride that the season brings to SVG. This has been a challenging year for many of our citizens, and so we at take this opportunity to wish all a Blessed, Peaceful, and Prosperous 2017.
Photos by Roselle Solomon exclusively for Express Vinci®.
© 2016. All rights reserved.
As the month of November 2016 draws to a close, we at Express Vinci® believe that most Vincentians are holding their psychological breaths with the hope that they can exhale deeply come December 1st, that should signal the beginning of the dry season. This is not an absolute, as we were taught in December 2013, but still it is good to remain hopeful.
It is likely that November 2016 will be remembered as one of the most regrettable months in our nation’s modern history. There is no need to recount any of the tragic incidences, as they remain fresh in our collective memory. They have increased our stress levels, whether we know it or not, and put strain on our mental and physical resources, leaving us at risk for conditions like Acute Stress Disorder (ASD), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Depression.
These serious mental health conditions are related. So we want to share with you a simple screen used to detect symptoms of Depression. It is widely used by professionals but can also be done in the comfort of your home. We also take this opportunity to extend condolences to those who have suffered loss over this time.
The Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9)
|Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following problems?
(Use “✔” to indicate your answer)
|Not At All||Several Days||More Than Half The Days||Nearly Every Day|
|1. Little interest or pleasure in doing things||0||1||2||3|
|2. Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless||0||1||2||3|
|3. Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much||0||1||2||3|
|4. Feeling tired or having little energy||0||1||2||3|
|5. Poor appetite or overeating||0||1||2||3|
|6. Feeling bad about yourself — or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down||0||1||2||3|
|7. Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television||0||1||2||3|
|8. Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed? Or the opposite — being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual||0||1||2||3|
|9. Thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself in some way||0||1||2||3|
If you checked off any problems, how difficult have these problems made it for you to do your work, take care of things at home, or get along with other people?
Not difficult at all Somewhat difficult Very difficult Extremely difficult
The maximum score is 27. The higher the score the more severe are the symptoms of depression. Speak to your health care provider if you score more than 5 on this questionnaire, or if you score 1 or above on question number 9.
Send us your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on our Facebook page if you have any comments or concerns after reading this article.
The PHQ-9 was developed by Drs. Robert L. Spitzer, Janet B. W. Williams, Kurt Kroenke and colleagues, with an educational grant from Pfizer Inc. No permission required to reproduce, translate, display or distribute it. It is easily available online.
Photo by Express Vinci® shows the bleak skyline in the early afternoon of Tuesday 29th November 2016, from Fairhall, St. Vincent.
Former US Surgeon General Richard Carmona, MD, MPH, is urging against hasty adoption of laws that would legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.
The physician, now the Distinguished Professor of Public Health at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, Phoenix, offered his opinion in a November 4
“As of today, it appears that the proverbial cart has been placed before the horse and the horse is blinded by the cloud of smoke,” Dr Carmona writes.
On November 8, voters in nine states will take up ballot initiatives that would legalize marijuana for either medicinal or recreational use.
Voters in Florida, Montana, North Dakota and Arkansas will weigh measures that expand or establish the availability of medical marijuana. In California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Maine, voters will decide whether to legalize cannabis for adults aged 21 years or older.
Marijuana is already legal for recreational use by adults in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, DC. Twenty-five states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico now have medical marijuana programs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Another 17 states allow use of products that have low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol and high levels of cannabidiol for medical reasons in limited situations or as a legal defense.
Only eight states prohibit access to marijuana for any purpose.
A Gallup poll of American adults conducted in early October found that 60% of respondents supported full legalization of marijuana – the highest percentage since the organization first asked about legalization in 1969.
Dr Carmona, who served as the 17th surgeon general of the United States from 2002 to 2006 under President George W. Bush, says that medical and recreational use of marijuana should be considered separately. Marijuana has been found to “impair normal brain development in those who start using at an early age,” and it also impairs driving ability, he writes.
The short- and long-term consequences of recreational use “may generate a significant cloud of complications and preventable illness which ultimately we will all pay for,” he notes.
For medical use, information does not exist on the dose, frequency of use, potency, potential side effects, and the risks and benefits of use, he says.
“This discussion is neither ‘pro nor con’ for medical or recreational use of marijuana,” says Dr Carmona. “It is intended to provide a scientific informed consent discussion with our elected leaders and the public in order that appropriate prospective policy may be promulgated before expanded marijuana use,” he writes.
The American Medical Association has tended to agree with Dr Carmona that marijuana should not be legalized. In 2013, it passed a resolution stating that marijuana is a dangerous drug and a threat to public health. But the resolution also urged leniency for users, adding that “public health based strategies, rather than incarceration, should be utilized in the handling of individuals possessing cannabis for personal use.”
Another group, Doctors for Regulation of Cannabis (DFRC), believes that cannabis should be fully legalized, in part because prohibition has been a failure, said David L. Nathan, MD, DFAPA, founder and board president of the Washington, DC–based organization.
The DFRC was established in early 2016 and includes former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, MD, and Westley Clark, MD, FASAM, a former director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, on its honorary board.
Dr Nathan said he agrees with Dr Carmona that medical use and recreational use should be viewed separately.
“There is a dearth of good evidence for a number of the conditions for which marijuana is being used medically,” Dr Nathan told Medscape Medical News.
Legalization would help provide the regulatory structure to test for potency and purity, ensure proper labeling, allow claims to be properly vetted, and require licensing of retailers, who would be held accountable to screen for underage buyers.
Marijuana can be safely used by consenting adults — those older than 21 years — said Dr Nathan, who is also clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, New Jersey. The use of marijuana does not result in lethal overdose and is “less harmful than the use of alcohol and tobacco,” he noted.
Noting the harms to the developing brain, Dr Nathan said, “Legalization of marijuana for adults should never imply societal acceptance of underage use.”
Marijuana prohibition has failed to stop teens and children from using the substance, and it “leads to racial bias in law enforcement, as African Americans are over four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana infractions than their white counterparts despite similar usage rates,” he said.
People who are arrested and incarcerated for marijuana use have trouble finding employment and have other difficulties that can worsen poverty, he said, adding that the impoverished have worse access to healthcare.
“So if we’re looking at this from a public health standpoint, we need to understand that marijuana prohibition itself is injurious to public health,” said Dr Nathan.
His organization — which receives no funding from industry and is financed by its 100 or so individual physician members ― has lobbied in support of the ballot initiatives in California and Massachusetts, as those two states have an appropriate regulatory framework, said Dr Nathan.
He is hopeful that the California ballot measure will succeed. “If the initiative goes through in California, nearly 25% of the US population will be living in a state where marijuana is legal,” he noted.
This article is shared from the medical education site, www.medscape.com. The views expressed are those of the authors and not of Express Vinci®.