WASHINGTON. Clifford Joseph Harris Jr., also known as T.I., is the most gravitas-laden Southern style rapper to grace Hollywood’s silver screen. With movies like Marvel’s Ant Man recently out in theaters and the 266 million box office hit American Gangsta in his list of credits, he is evolving into a household name. Unfortunately, that bit of notoriety did not stop local police in Trinidad and Tobago from detaining his manager and an events coordinator for marijuana possession during TI’s recent performance there.
T.I. manager runs into marijuana possession problems in Trinidad and Tobago
The Loop has details.
“The manager of international rapper and actor, T.I., was fined $19,000 for marijuana possession when he appeared before Scarborough Magistrate Brian Dabideen on Monday.
“38-year-old Cortez Thomas was in Tobago for the Great Fete weekend in which his client, T.I., real name Clifford Joseph Harris Jr, performed.
“Thomas was in a vehicle driven by Tobagonian events coordinator Orlando Phillip when they were stopped in a roadblock following the event.
“He was found in possession of a container with a plant like substance resembling marijuana and was arrested. He subsequently spent the weekend in jail.
“Meanwhile, Phillip admitted to having marijuana in the pockets of the vehicle and was also arrested.”
Trinidad and Tobago Marijuana Law
Current law in Trinidad and Tobago prohibits possession of marijuana except for a treatment of a medical condition by a licensed physician and as provided by a pharmacist.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Drug Act of 1991 states:
unless the dangerous drug is required for medicinal purposes or is prescribed for the medical treatment of a person who is under professional treatment by a medical practitioner.
In addition, to that statute, the act as amended in 2010 places the burden of proof on the defendant when it comes to marijuana possession.
Section (h) of the if a dangerous drug is found to be concealed in any compartment, in any vehicle, it shall, until the contrary is proven, be deemed to have been so concealed with the knowledge of the owner of the vehicle and of the person in charge of the vehicle at the time the drug is found.
The entertainer plead guilty to the charges and paid the fine which amounts to about $3,000 US dollars. Attorney for the defendant alleged adoring local fans threw the drugs into the car, apparently a gesture of gratitude for an awesome performance. That bit of legal reasoning, however, did not prevent conviction.
If they were aware of the medical marijuana laws they could have obtained a prescription for a medical condition.
Is marijuana safe for medical use?
T.I. and many other artists, musical and otherwise tend to think so.
There are, in fact, proven bonafide health benefits cannabis has to offer. Some of these include relief for nausea and vomiting associated with cancer; use as a muscle relaxant; and relief for symptoms of glaucoma and other circulatory system deficiencies. There are also anecdotal reports indicating that the use of pot helps reduce blood sugar levels.
On the other hand, compared to other prescription drugs on the market that have known negative side effects, marijuana for some users can have similar short and long term issues, something that research has long indicated. Yet not every user experiences these results, which is similar to the situation with some prescription drugs.
Recreational marijuana use: the negatives
When law considers the public good regarding recreational drug use, two main issues arise: health and social well being. Health has two sides to the coin. Everyone knows, for example, that excessive smoking of any substance can lead to lung damage.
Good evidence exists that marijuana smoke in particular can be as hazardous to health as second-hand tobacco smoke. In fact, the effects of marijuana smoke could be even worse according to one University of California medical scientist who has studied the issue.
“Exposure to marijuana smoke is three times more harmful than exposure to tobacco smoke, new research suggests.
“Matthew Springer, a professor at University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, studied the effects of smoke on rats and found exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke makes it harder for arteries to expand and allow a healthy flow of blood.”
But that does not mean that marijuana users typically smoke the drug excessively. In addition, users can consume the drug in other ways, including ingestion.
Recreational marijuana use: the positive side
For cannabis supporters, current marijuana laws reflecting harsh legal positions frequently seem antiquated and outmoded. That appears particularly true in our modern era. Today, at least some studies suggest updating current laws to reflect current science.
For example, a 2015 study published online via the NIH National Library of Medicine (NLM) offered some statistical evidence indicating supporting a change in attitude toward the use of marijuana. The study claims marijuana use is less harmful than previously thought when compared to other substances frequently used or abused.
“Currently, the MOE [Margin of Exposure] results point to risk management prioritization towards alcohol and tobacco rather than illicit drugs. The high MOE values of cannabis, which are in a low-risk range, suggest a strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition approach.”
Is marijuana safe for recreational use?
I don’t know if T.I. and members of his entourage currently suffer from any of these ailments. Perhaps they just think that the drug helps improve their musical performance. However, they can cite evidence for at least a millennium of societal use. This, in turn, can provide backup for what scientists may or may not already know about the drug.
Where the law is concerned, social wellbeing plays an important part of the overall equation.
As a result of socio-cultural changes in the 70s, the public increasingly regards marijuana as a social or recreational drug. Favorable media coverage helped this process considerably. But even that image is changing rapidly. Now the label “marijuana user” no longer conjures up visions of beatniks, hippies and assorted deadbeats.
It is also the face of artists and musicians like T.I., Bob Marley and Snoop Dog among others.
In terms of social wellbeing a prosecutor would need to establish a a chain of facts proving conclusively that T.I. and members of his marijuana-using entourage are a danger to themselves or to society as users.
Enough of a danger that it warranted depriving them of their freedom.
Above image: T.I. performs in the 2014 Come Up! show. Via Wikipedia entry on T.I., CC 2.0 license. Image slightly edited to fit available space.