Drug-dealing parents

As the St Catherine South Police continue their crackdown on drugs and contraband in schools here, school vendors, many of them parents, have continued to engage law enforcers in a “cat and mouse” game as they peddle drug-infused treats to students, claiming it is for “survival”.

According to Sergeant Princess Bayliss Ranger of the Catherine South Community Safety and Security Branch of the Jamaica Constabulary, despite several arrests, the vendors, once released, are back to serving ganja-infused cookies and alcohol-soaked gummies to the students.

“It is a big problem. We do our best every day to ensure that we are out on the road to ensure we do our searches and arrests but they still come back. It’s a cat and mouse game, they will watch out for us to see if we are coming to prosecute. And of course, they give this victim story that they are trying to make a living for themselves and all of that, they will posture to us that it’s just for survival why they do it,” Bayliss Ranger told the Jamaica Observer.

She said that ironically, the vendors, though operating on the wrong side of the dangerous drugs law, still ensure that they have their food handlers’ permits and meet other requirements for vending.

“They tend to level up on that, they tend to ensure they are in the right with that, so the only other alternative is to take them in,” she told the Sunday Observer.

Bayliss Ranger, asked to say the worst she has seen where a child ingested the cookies, responded: “The student was out of it for most of the day, in school but just couldn’t function, just there”.

“These are the things we have to be dealing with on a daily basis,” she told the Sunday Observer.

In the meantime, she said that the police are now engaging students through a Youth with Behavioural Issues in School Programme to de-escalate the situation.

“We tend to reach out to these kinds of students and in some of the cases we try to get councillors and other professionals to help them, as well as their parents,” she said, adding that the police are willing to work with the students and their parents in order to help them.

The National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) in a May 2022 rapid assessment study which involved focus groups with 160 students and interviews with 20 guidance counsellors in 13 parishes sought to find out the issues facing young people and the drugs they thought were the most popular. Students said these were Molly, vaping and edibles.

On Friday, nurse Jacqueline Parchment of the St Catherine Health Department in detailing the impact of early drug use, said half of the mentally ill residents in the parish of St Catherine were drug addicts, a number of whom are young school leavers who have become a menace to their families — frequently landing in trouble with the law to fund their drug habit.

She said of the almost 4,000 people in the parish diagnosed with a mental illness, half of that amount are drug users, most of whom are addicted to alcohol.

Parchment, who was part of a panel at the Jose Marti Technical High School in St Catherine on Friday where the National Council on Drug Abuse launched its school tour in recognition of Drug Awareness Month, said habits are being formed from the classrooms.

She said that while the health department has been seeing young school-aged children with mental conditions brought on by drug abuse in the Child Guidance Clinics, the majority have been young graduates.

“What we see mostly is the people who have left school. So, when they leave school at 17, 18, 19 years old, we find that we see more of those coming to our adult clinics and they are the ones who have found themselves in problems with the law because to feed their habit sometimes, they are deviants and so they engage in a lot of deviant behaviour,” Parchment said.

“We find they are not only in problems with the law, but they also have a lot of family dysfunction because sometimes they have now disturbed the equilibrium of the family and so there are a lot of issues because of drug use,” she said.

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