Public Education Campaign On Ganja For Youth

Photo: Michael Sloley Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, makes a point during the sitting of the House of Representatives on July 18.

Story Highlights

  • The National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) will be embarking on a full scale youth public education campaign to delay initiation into smoking and to provide young persons with information about healthy coping and lifestyle options.  
  • Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, provided details at the sitting of the House of Representatives on July 18.
  • He was making his contribution to a private member’s motion brought by Member of Parliament for Central Kingston, Rev. Ronald Thwaites, on public health issues arising from tobacco and ganja.

The National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) will be embarking on a full scale youth public education campaign to delay initiation into smoking and to provide young persons with information about healthy coping and lifestyle options.

Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, provided details at the sitting of the House of Representatives on July 18.

He was making his contribution to a private member’s motion brought by Member of Parliament for Central Kingston, Rev. Ronald Thwaites, on public health issues arising from tobacco and ganja.

“In fact, we are well advanced in completing that public education programme and the Ministry of Health has allocated some $50 million over a period of time to support it,” Dr. Tufton said.

He noted that the campaign will build on the youth #talkditruth #FutureComeFirst prevention programme that is owned by the NCDA, adding that the programme will utilize mass media campaigns, to include social media and special edutainment strategies.

“This campaign will be implemented over a two-year period, then evaluated and adjustments made to the main promotional messages, if necessary. A defining feature of this campaign is the integration of peer and family support strategies to support and maintain behaviour change,” the Minister said.

Dr. Tufton said reports from key stakeholders in the law-enforcement, education and health sectors have been consistent regarding public perception of the recent Amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act.

The perception, he said, particularly among young people, is that ganja  is now a legal drug to be used at leisure, regardless of location, age, quantity and context.

The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act, 2015 was passed to provide for “the modification of penalties for the possession of cannabis in specified small quantities and the smoking of cannabis in specified circumstances, and for a scheme of licences, permits and other authorizations for medical, therapeutic or scientific purposes”.   This amendment has been referred to as the ‘decriminalization of cannabis.’

The Health Minister said the impact of cannabis on cognitive functioning along with the existing challenges with education/literacy in school children and the increased prevalence of cannabis use and misuse by Jamaican adolescents is a major concern.

“There are edibles (cookies and sweets) present in the Jamaican context – some being sold within prominent schools,” Dr. Tufton noted.

He cited a study by Professor Archibald McDonald (1999) examining trauma injuries presented at the University Hospital, which showed that 46 per cent of patients were positive for cannabis; while 50 per cent and 55 per cent of victims of road traffic accidents and interpersonal violence, respectively, were positive for cannabis.

Also, within the general population, a Drug Prevalence Survey conducted by the NCDA in 2016  among 4,623 individuals islandwide, revealed that 28 per cent of the population (12-65 years) had used cannabis at some point in their lifetime and 18 per cent used it in the past year with the average age of first use being 16.

Dr. Tufton said there has been much public discussion about the implications of the new legislation, and much misinformation surrounding its provisions.

He added that the consensus is that a public education strategy is urgently required to address the implications of these changes for various groups in the society, especially targeting youth.

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