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Seychelles Absurdity: Medical Consumption of Cannabis Not Against the Law, But Law Won’t Say What Treatments are Allowed

Seychelles Absurdity: Medical Consumption of Cannabis Not Against the Law, But Law Won’t Say What Treatments are Allowed

Brett Hilton-Barber

16 August 2022 at 08:00:00

Attorney General’s Office briefs Seychelles Interfaith Council (Sifco) on current legal status of cannabis as delegates debate on pros and cons of legalization.

Seychelles Attorney General representative Stefan Knights told a SIFCO function on 22 July 2022 at Bel Eau that “by law, people in Seychelles can access cannabidiol-based products for medical purposes in Seychelles as a last-resort medical treatment. In practice, this is not possible because the Public Health Commissioner has failed to declare which illnesses or medical conditions are qualifying medical conditions to access cannabidiol-based products.”

He said medical cannabis usage was explicity allowed for by the Misuse of Drugs (Cannabidiol-based Products for Medical Purposes) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 25 of 2020), but that there was no framework to give this effect.

Knight said “International Drug Conventions have been labelled ‘redundant’ and dysfunctional even by UN bodies and now lack the legitimacy and consensus to seriously challenge law reform. International treaty instruments derive their authority from consensus in the international sphere, thus the fact that so many countries, including important allies like Canada, have deviated from them, undermines their authority.

“There are now deep rationales for law reform of the harmful, ineffective and unjust prohibitionist legal regime that currently informs cannabis, supported by strong public opinion and credible scientific and empirical data and analysis. 

The Commission also recommends that CARICOM Member States work together to formulate a formal, regional position on the need to amend the existing UN treaties that govern cannabis. In the interim, Member States should declare that the treaties contravene human rights principles in CARICOM states, so as to ground a justification for avoiding treaty obligations.”

Knight said the Government would not introduce harmful laws in Seychelles and it was important to understand the different types of cannabis and the molecular compounds of THC and CBD before any new legislation was introduced. It likely that this will be one of the topics that the Seychelle’s new Law Commission will tackle.

The Sifco panel consisted of Noella Gonthier, director of Care; Diana Gerry, programme manager at the Division for Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation (DSAPTR); Nelson Esparon from the Seychelles Kanabis Association, and Stefan Knights from the Attorney General’s office.

The four panellists made a presentation on why they were lobbying against and for the legislation of cannabis and all were in agreement that the dangers of youth substance abuse should be considered.

Gonthier said Care’s position was ‘no’ to the “recreational use of cannabis”. “Yes cannabis is a natural plant, but it is a drug. Care keeps working with children and youth across Seychelles and has done some surveys with the children and youth. We talk to the head teachers of schools and have a clear idea of what is going on in society. Care is not against the medicinal use of cannabis.”

Esparon said the Seychelles Kanabis Association lobbying for the use of cannabis for adults only. “Cannabis is a plant and no one can violate our rights because of a plant. Our other point of concern is that cannabis can be used to cure many diseases and so far the list has not been submitted yet. I am also concerned about the children using cannabis but adults should be able to go somewhere safe to be able to get cannabis.”

Gerry said DSAPTR’s major concern was addiction. “Some people who smoke marijuana have lots of problems. They have trouble quitting even though they want to. They smoke more than they intended to and they neglect their responsibilities. People say that marijuana is harmless, largely based on their own experiences with the drug. One thing we should not ignore, doctors claim that marijuana is harmful – that can be easily ignored. But when marijuana users themselves claim to have problems, maybe that is worth listening to and take it seriously.”

She also raised concerns about mental health issues among cannabis users.

“Marijuana use might have permanent effects on the developing brain when use begins in adolescence, especially with regular or heavy use. Legalisation can make getting marijuana easier for teens. They might have a friend or family member who is using and sharing with them. There are real risks for people who use marijuana, especially youth and young adults, and women who are pregnant.”

Sifco chairperson Rev Danny Elizabeth, thanked the panellists and said “the more we talk about an issue, the better informed we become when it is time to make decisions. Sifco is engaged in debates on what is going on in society and we will have similar debates.”

After the panel discussion, a lunch was organised in honour of retired Bishop Denis Wiehe at the Palm Seychelles.

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