The country’s leader is not convinced that the recent wave of violence among the youth has anything to do with his government’s decision to decriminalize the use of small amounts of marijuana.
There have been suggestions that the use of Ganga, especially among young people may be causing a change in their attitudes, leaning more toward hostility and violence.
But that, according to Browne seemed far-fetched, saying that young people in Antigua and Barbuda have been smoking pot for many years
He told Twin Island Radio recently that “our children have been using marijuana from time immemorial. Even before we decriminalize marijuana. Antigua and Barbidan students had the highest use in the Caribbean of marijuana,” he said
“What our government did was to remove the double punishment of those who indulged in that practice, in which as a youth, when you become a young adult you could have the criminal conviction of marijuana use,”
Browne says there is no evidence that not decriminalizing marijuana would reduce the use of the controlled substance.
“We didn’t see the value because there was no evidence based on the study that was done. The sensible thing for the government to have done was to at least remove the criminalization aspect to make sure we did not undermine the prospects of those who may have been involved in the use of marijuana and perhaps could have been convicted,” he said
Meanwhile, Browne said he is very concerned about the increase in violence among people in the country.
Over the past few months, gang-related violence has been on the increase among schoolgoers. Some students have been hospitalized with serious injuries.
“This matter has been given urgent attention by the Ministry of Social Transformation. In fact, my cabinet would have mandated that they put together a comprehensive strategy that will also see the full operationalization of the Boys Training School. There are currently in the process of constructing the renewed and expanded facility and obviously, we will make sure we have facilities for our girls as well,” he said.
Browne admitted however that there are some cracks in the infrastructure where dealing with youth delinquency is concerned.
“I want to make the point however that youth delinquency is not the exclusive domain of the government. It is the responsibility of all. In order to effectively address that issue it requires all of the social approaches to include not only government but teachers, spiritual leaders, community leaders, and parents,” he added.
Surveillance at schools and increased police patrols at bus stations have been implemented to help curb the gang violence being seen.