With an increasing number of jurisdictions enacting or contemplating reforms creating legal access to cannabis for purposes other than exclusively "medical and scientific," tensions regarding the drug conventions and evolving law and practice in Member States continue to grow.
An ethnographic study of women and drug use in inner city neighborhoods in Kingston, Jamaica, revealed that cannabis is commonly used in conjunction with crack cocaine to minimize the undesirable effects of crack pipe smoking, specifically paranoia and weight loss.
Drug law reform continues developing in the right direction in several Latin American and Caribbean countries. In Jamaica, for example, a law legalizing the cultivation and consumption of ganja for medicinal, religious and research purposes came into force, as well as the decriminalisation of possession for personal use. Jamaica also spoke out at the UN Thematic Debate in New York. On May 7th, the minister addressed the UN High Level Thematic Debate on international drug policy, highlighting Jamaica’s perspectives on drug control policies and participating in a debate that encourages open and inclusive discussions. Amongst the outcomes Jamaica would like to see from UNGASS is “the establishment of an Expert Advisory Group to review the UN drug policy control architecture, its system-wide coherence, its treaty inconsistencies and its legal tension with cannabis regulations.”
Jamaica's current volatile security environment and its economic malaise are reasons enough to seriously consider joining their Latin American counterparts to debate a raft of new policy options, not only in rhetoric, but also through public policy. Our prison conditions and local magistrate courts are bursting at their seams from inmate overcrowding and case overloads for marijuana possession that amount to miniscule consumption levels.
A call has been made for the government to declare an amnesty on all arrests for the possession of under one pound of marijuana. The plea from the Ganja Future Growers Producers Association was made following the death of Mario Deane who was in the custody of the State. Deane was arrested and held at the Barnett Street police station lock-up in western Jamaica for possession of a marijuana spliff. While in custody, he was beaten and died in hospital a few days later.
Professor Archibald McDonald called on the Jamaican Government to continue with the reforms and disregard apparent threats from US Government official William Brownfield cautioning the Government against breaching international drug treaties to which it is a signatory. "He is saying that Colorado, Washington DC and so on can go ahead and legalise ganja, but Jamaica signed those treaties and therefore cannot do the same. What a ridiculous argument," McDonald commented.
Executive Chairman of Medicanja, Dr Henry Lowe, is urging a spirit of cooperation between government ministries and agencies involved in the development of Jamaica's ganja industry, following the passage of the Decriminalisation Bill.
Marcus Day of the Caribbean Drug and Alcohol Research Institute believes the time has come for regional governments to legalise marijuana to counteract the spread of HIV. "We encourage the crack smokers that we work with to substitute their crack for cannabis and to smoke cannabis instead. Even though it's probably not the best thing, it's much better than crack smoking."
Justice Minister Mark Golding says international events and changes in the United States - the chief opponent of Jamaica's decriminalisation efforts over the years - make this the right time for lawmakers to consider changes. He said the recommendations which Cabinet will be asked to consider are standing on the shoulders of the recommendations of the National Commission on Ganja, chaired by the late Professor Barry Chevannes more than a decade ago.
Justice Minister Mark Golding has said consideration is being given to reforming the law relating to ganja in Jamaica to allow its use, but within certain parameters. Those boundaries include possession of marijuana for medical use, scientific research, religious purposes, and possession of small amounts of ganja (that is amounts of up to two ounces) for recreational use. It is also considering permitting the smoking of ganja in private places.
In Saint Vincent and across the Caribbean, marijuana is illegal, yet it is widely used, freely sold and openly puffed. It’s evidence of the shifting attitudes over pot. Now, for the first time, Caribbean leaders — much like a growing number of American and Latin American lawmakers — are considering loosening restrictions to control and capitalize on the popular crop.
At the first Cannabis Conference held at the University of the West Indies, stakeholders have called for the criminal records of persons convicted for smoking small amounts of ganja to be expunged and are calling for the laws to be amended to allow for the personal use of small amounts of ganja in private. But while they want ganja to be decriminalised for personal use by adults and for religious purposes, Government must maintain its ban on the smoking of all substances in public and must put in place safeguards and education programmes to reduce juvenile use and demand for ganja.
The Jamaican government has approved proposed amendments to the law that will decriminalise the possession of small amounts of ganja. Justice Minister Mark Golding says the government will soon table a bill in Parliament that will seek to expunge the criminal records of persons convicted for possession of small amounts of ganja. Speaking at a Jamaica House press conference a short while ago, Golding said Cabinet has approved proposed changes to the Dangerous Drugs Act to make possession of up to two ounces (57 grams) or less a non-arrestable offence. (See also: Jamaica government announces major changes to drug laws)
The Caribbean trade bloc Caricom has created a commission to study whether the region's roughly 15 million people should be allowed to use medical marijuana and how courts should handle possession of small amounts of the drug. Leaders said that the commission is expected to submit reports by Caricom's next summit, scheduled for February 2016. A recent preliminary report from Caricom found that decriminalizing medical marijuana could help boost the region's economy. (See also: Opposition says Jamaica does not need Caricom ganja comm)