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.
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.”
Traditional small ganja farmers in Jamaica, accustomed to clandestinely working their fields, will now have to adhere to strict regulations in order to supply research institutions that have been granted licences.
The Government intends to make Jamaica a world leader on the medical uses of marijuana. Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell said marijuana is one of the most researched herbs, and evidence is pointing to a number of medical benefits. "There is now convincing data and evidence to support beneficial effects in relation to glaucoma, epilepsy, eating disorders and several more conditions, especially those affecting the nervous system," Paulwell said while handing over a marijuana research licence to the University of Technology (UTech).
Senator Mark Golding, minister of justice, participated in a plenary session with several UN member states at the United Nations in a High Level Thematic Debate on International Drug Policy in preparation for the UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS) scheduled for April 19-21 2016. Minister Golding highlighted Jamaica’s perspectives called for open and inclusive discussions, including the creation of an expert advisory group to review the United Nations drug policy control architecture.
Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Anthony Hylton, says Jamaica intends to lead a charge in the United Nations to effect changes to the international treaties concerning marijuana. The aim is to change the schedule class of marijuana in light of scientific studies that have proven its therapeutic benefits and medicinal value. "Jamaica intends to participate, and to lead, if necessary, a process in the United Nations to have those treaties amended," Hylton said.
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.
The law effectively clears the way for the decriminalisation of two ounces of marijuana, making possession a ticketable offence. Under the amended law, the Rastafarian community will have the opportunity to use ganja as part of its religious sacrament.
Chairman of the Cannabis Movement of St Lucia, Andre De Caires, has welcomed Jamaica's decision to give the green light to the so-called Ganja Bill, but chided authorities in St Lucia for dragging their feet on the issue.