Cannabis in Seychelles – An overview |12 May 2023
Seychelles NATION investigates the effect of cannabis on the human body, the medicinal usage, the implications it will have on society and the history of cannabis.
The possession of cannabis for personal use is currently a criminal offense and is punishable by up to five years in prison. Cannabis is currently illegal for recreational use. There are calls for cannabis to be legalised in the country to which the President of the Republic has suggested to leave it to a referendum.
Seychelles NATION had the chance to speak to an addictologist who wished to remain anonymous. She explained that our Endocannabinoid system which is responsible for a person’s homeostasis that keeps the balance in the human body has two receptors, CB1 and CB2. The CB1 is responsible for the brain and spinal cord while CB2 is responsible for the periphery. The Phytocannabinoids store over 113 compounds of chemicals inside the cannabis plant. The two main ones are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). THC mainly affects the CB1 receptor and CBD mainly affects the CB2 receptor.
THC is psychoactive and is what gives the ‘high’ effect. It kills pains that may be in your body but is also makes you extremely paranoid and induces anxiety and can even cause depression. CBD has a calming effect and has the opposite effects of THC.
The doctor explained that in regards to psychosis, the higher the potency of THC the higher the chance of suffering from hallucinations and delusion. However, genetics also play a huge factor as people with high metabolism would be able to sustain the high much longer than people with low metabolisms.
To conclude, she spoke about the dangers of synthetic cannabis that may find its way on the market without a way of knowing. It is lab created from cannabinoid compounds with extracting it, and the artificial effects contains no CBD but a very large amount of THC. In the worst case scenario, it can even lead to death. Seychelles is not equipped with the necessary machinery to find the difference between synthetic cannabis and natural cannabis.
Mixing cannabis with other substances such as alcohol or cocaine can also further lead to the adverse side effects and detriment of the health.
Herbalist Pascal Chang-Leng explained the medical application regarding cannabis, one of which is adjunctive therapy to both cancer and HIV. For patients going through chemotherapy, cannabis can be used to greatly minimise the side effects of chemotherapy, such as the inability to eat, inability to walk et cetera. These medicinal properties are all found on the THC side of things.
On the CBD side, Mr Chang-Leng explained that it can be used to create an ‘anti-high’ effect. It can be used to sober up people who are under the influence of either THC or alcohol.
“CBC promotes mental clarity and mental cognition,” he explained. CBD can be used to reduce pain, such as nerve pain and can even act as an anti-inflammatory. It can even be used for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer's, dementia, autism and epilepsy. In fact, epidiolex an FDA-approved drug that's made with cannabidiol (CBD) has been used to treat intractable epilepsy. “CBD is legal in many countries and is recommended by the World Health Organisation,” he stated.
Smoking cannabis is not the only way to apply the medical benefits of cannabis, as Mr Chang-Leng pointed out alternatives, such as oral, dermal and other means of application. He went on to explain that most of the medicinal properties come from ‘marijuana’ which is the female flower.
“Recreational users are also benefitting from the medical side,” he pointed out.
Mr Chang-Leng explained that the side effects of cannabis include psychological addiction rather than physical addition. If someone was to use cannabis to be able to sleep better or as a method of calming themselves down, they would be reliant on it a bit too much. The user may be unable to sleep. Things such as paranoia and anxiety may also be prevalent after usage of THC.
It also includes minimal withdrawal symptoms but to a much lesser extent than heroin or opioids. The symptoms include things such as increased irritation, low appetite and craving. However, the user will not need to physically use cannabis and the symptoms usually go away after 3-5 days.
There are minimal adverse effects on your health. Heavy users who smoke around 6-12 joints, and have been smoking roughly ten years, have an inflammation in the respiratory lining, like someone with a cough might have.
“However, there is no correlation with lung cancer, and it does not cause the same effect that tobacco smoke has.”
In addition, Mr Chang-Leng discussed that those who might have ancestry of people with schizophrenia or mental disorders, are genetically predetermined to trigger these illnesses with certain doses of cannabis or certain forms.
To conclude, he explained that children whose brain are still developing can be prone to adverse effects that could be detrimental to their studies. This is because, the prefrontal context, which is responsible for the decision-making and making executive judgments will be skewed. The brain finishes developing around 21-25 years old.
It is in this line that the director of Care (Committee for Awareness, Resilience and Education) against substance abuse, Noella Gonthier, discussed the retaliation that Care has on the legalisation of cannabis.
“Care does not have any complaints with medical cannabis. Research has shown medicinal properties. We have issues with how it is being used,” she stated. “The THC, which is the addictive properties, are removed when being used for medicine.” In addition, if someone is above 21 and wants to use cannabis, that is their choice. She explained that it should be like any controlled drug by the Ministry of Health. “Care has many concerns with the effect and misinformation that will impact children. Things such as curing asthma, might cause a child to want to test cannabis. “We will continue to fight for the children.”
She explained that the brain of children are not fully developed and like alcohol and cigarettes, cannabis will have an adverse side effect.
Care does not agree with the recreational use of cannabis because of the societal impact that it will have on the children.
“Even those who promote marijuana and say that it will be under better control, does not convince us.”
She cited the fact that alcohol and cigarettes are illegal to underage children but they still have access to it despite the best efforts of the police authorities.
“Availability and accessibility of drugs and alcohol is too easy for children. When it is legalised, how are you going to control it among the kids?”
She concluded by analysing the fact that children are smoking cannabis illegally concurrently, with it legalised, they might not adhere to orders from a teacher that will catch them with it and smoke it freely.
“We cannot blindly follow other countries. It is not right. We are legalising a substance that has proven to have a negative effect on children.”
Ms Gonthier explained that those who want cannabis to be legalised are in it for the money and want to profit from the unfortunate situation that it may cause.
Nelson Esparon from the Seychelles Kanabis Association has advocated for the legalisation of cannabis for months.
He spoke vehemently against the fact that cannabis has any psychosis side effect and states that the only thing it does is exacerbate your mental health issues that you already have.
He stated that there is a need to educate the population.
“Politicians and some associations need to stop spreading lies about cannabis,” he said.
He stated that he does not believe in such a thing as ‘medical cannabis’. Recreational and medical usage are not mutually exclusive. “It is still cannabis entering your body. They do not understand how it is happening. All methods of intake is the same. Cannabis is cannabis. This rhetoric was created for control over the population.”
Mr Esparon explained that before 1937, there were no laws on cannabis. It was being used by every country. The word marijuana was derived from Mexicans and there was the ‘Marijuana Tax Act’. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was the first national marijuana prohibition law. Its passage was engineered by Federal Bureau of Narcotics Director Harry Anslinger following a nationwide “reefer madness” campaign that portrayed marijuana as a cause of insanity, addiction, and criminal violence.
Mr Esparon stated that in a current era, people should not have to live by laws crafted over decades ago with unfounded basis and no evidence to support their claims.
“The UN said that marijuana will cause people to go kill others and commit suicide. We know today that this is not true.”
He went on to state that it is unfair that countries such as USA who criminalised marijuana in the first place and are now doing a U-turn, still have a gripping hold over the Seychelles culture that refuses to change their mindset when it comes to cannabis.
“The referendum that the president proposed is not a true way to solve this issue. People are going to vote based on something they do not fully understand yet.”
To conclude, Mr Esparon launched a complaint to the Seychelles Human Rights Commission, with the intention to make it aware that the criminalisation of marijuana is inflicting on certain constitutional rights. “Article 29, the right to health care, says the State recognises the right of every citizen to protection of health and to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health. If someone wants to privately smoke their cannabis at home, they should not have to worry about the police busting down their doors.”
He also stated that Article 39 is also in infringement as those who want to “exercise cultural values” as the article states cannot do so if they are Rastafarian for example. “Their spirituality is essentially made illegal.”