Cannabis debate in Seychelles continues, advocates for legalisation vocally campaign
The Association was launched on August 31st last year to commemorate African Traditional Medicine Day. (Salifa Karapetyan, Seychelles News Agency)
The term "medical cannabis" is another misconception fed to the public as well as the plant being a gateway drug, said the chairperson of the Seychelles Kanabis Association (SKA), Nelson Esparon.
Recently the association went live on Pure 90.7 local radio station to provide educational information on cannabis, which is considered an illegal drug for recreational use under the law, and also held an exhibition at the Pure Garden at Le Chantier in the capital Victoria.
Esparon told SNA that there is a need to dispel misconceptions that surround the recreational and medical use of cannabis.
"When the term "medical cannabis" is used, there's nothing that the physician or any organisation has done to the cannabis that all of a sudden makes it safe and ok to use if you have an illness but not ok if being used for recreational [purposes]," said Esparon.
He explained that "if it is so dangerous for recreational users, I don't think by just labelling it medical cannabis makes it safer and ok to use if you have an illness. This is one of those absurd misconceptions that I hope we were able to dispel at the event."
Uses and dangers
According to the UK-based Medical News Today website, cannabis is a plant of which several parts are used for recreational and medicinal purposes. It can have a pleasurable effect and may soothe the symptoms of various conditions, such as anxiety and chronic pain. It can also help with nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy treatment, sleeping problems and low appetite.
The plant contains active ingredients known as cannabinoids and the most abundant ones are cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
However, in high doses, THCs can induce temporary schizophrenia-like psychotic symptoms such as paranoia, delusions, anxiety and hallucinations, and worsen other mental health problems.
According to Seychelles' Ministry of Health statement on September 22, 2022, "Cannabis-use was the highest cause of admission (19%) to the Psychiatric Ward in 2021...Cannabis remains a known risk factor for mental health problems."
Meanwhile, in February 2020, amendments made to the Misuse of Drugs Act (MODA) made it lawful for people in Seychelles to access cannabidiol-based (CBD) products for medical purposes.
This came after Seychelles' Constitutional Court ordered the government, in June 2019, to make regulations for the medical use of cannabis, ruling in favour of a patient who uses the drug to help with the effects of Alzheimer's disease.
"The court in Seychelles has acknowledged the benefits of cannabis and ordered the government to enact laws and regulations to give cannabis access to those qualified to use it as a medicine and this has not happened. The law continues to marginalise everyone who wants to use cannabis, even those that need this natural plant for their illnesses and in many cases to save their lives," said Esparon.
Aside from Article 29 of the Seychelles' Constitution, which guarantees the right to health care, Esparon added that MODA is also in violation of other constitutional rights such as Article 18 – Right to Liberty, and Article 39 – Right to Cultural Life and Values.
"SKA has lodged a complaint against MODA and we await an investigation for this to be ascertained," said Esparon
Speaking about cannabis being referred to as a gateway drug, he said that the event was an opportunity to educate the population on the true nature of cannabis and the lies surrounding prohibition.
A referendum on legalisation?
In a latest public meeting, Seychelles' President Wavel Ramkalawan said that the decision to legalise the recreational use of cannabis is one that the people should make themselves through a referendum.
Esparon told SNA that "most people see a referendum as a democratic approach but the danger lies with the lack of credible information on cannabis that is available in the public domain."
"The referendum will allow Seychellois to vote on a topic they have very little knowledge about. Can we say with confidence that our electorates will be well informed about cannabis prior to them going to vote? For SKA, this raises a concern when considering a referendum," expressed Esparon.
He shared that SKA will continue with its educational programme and provide factual information about cannabis so as to eliminate the stigma about cannabis.