Link Between Drug Abuse and Mental Health Underscored During Debate on Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2019

Basseterre, St. Kitts, August 02, 2019 (SKNIS): The link between drug abuse and mental health was discussed during the tabling of the Bill shortly entitled Drugs (Prevention and Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) (Amendment) Bill 2019, to which the Honourable Wendy C. Phipps, Minister of State with responsibility for Health said the government and other entities will make provisions to assist in such matters.

The Minister of State said that some of the concerns in the Ministry of Health are of related to mental health. She recalled the contribution she made on the 2019 Appropriation Bill in which the issue of mental health was discussed.

“Mental health is globally considered as an NCD (Non-Communicable Disease) now because of all of the contingent risks and illnesses that could go along with it when people can no longer look after themselves,” she said. “I would have said in that debate on the Appropriation Bill, as it relates to the Mental Health Day Treatment Centre, which is designed for a maximum of 25 persons, and currently we have approximately 17 or 18 active clients at the moment, that most, if not all of the cases of schizophrenia that we are seeing being dealt with among patients for that particular facility are linked clearly to marijuana use or have at least been exacerbated by marijuana use.”

She stated that when looking at the decriminalization of marijuana and for provision of personal use without criminal charges, the negatives that can come with it must be considered.

“This is telling us that the national agencies that should be there to assist persons in crisis, persons with substance abuse problems including, but not limited to, the Ministry of Health, and the National Drug Council, as well as other private as well as co-operative or statutory agencies, as it relates to counselling, all of the state’s resources would have to come to bare as we build out a proper mechanism to deal with this matter,” she said.

Minister Phipps said that it is evident the government is already on a path to having “a very seriously established regulatory regime to deal with marijuana use and as the mover of the Bill would have stated, when we come to the point of debating the substantive legislation, which is the Cannabis Bill, we would see for the first time how extensive these regulations have to be.”

The regulations, she said, are expected to affect other pieces of legislation, for example, the sale of goods, consumer rights, e-commerce and other things that might come as a result of the sale of cannabinoid or cannabis related products (with an approved license) that may be produced from research and development in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.

“The honourable mover of the Bill would have gone the extra step in indicating that a wide consultative approach is preferred to continue as we have started to make sure that we get it right and as such I commend this Bill to safe passage and trust what results out of it and the eventual debate and passage of the Cannabis Bill will also be subject to broad based public education that is necessary going forward,” said Minister Phipps.

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