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."
The world is watching, with keen eyes, as legislators in Montevideo inch ever so close to making Uruguay the first country ever to legalise the production, sale and use of ganja. The bill narrowly passed the lower House Thursday, by a 50 to 46 vote, and is expected to be successful in the Senate later this year.
Advocates for the decriminalisation at a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum said it was unfortunate that the image of ganja users has remained the same for years, when usage cuts across all social classes. Long-time ganja advocate Paul Chang, chair of the Ganja Law Reform Coalition (GLRC) said there was still too much shame associated with ganja usage because there are too many misconceptions about the narcotic. (See also: Remove the ganja stigma)
Successive administrations are being accused of spinelessness in the pursuit of any venture aimed at legitimately utilising marijuana products in health and tourism to catapult Jamaica's limping economy forward. More than a decade ago, several far-reaching recommendations for the decriminalisation of the use of regulated quantities of the drug were presented by the National Commission on Ganja. Although the recommendations received the approval of the parliamentary committee, successive governments have failed to act on them.
Lawmakers in Jamaica debated a proposal to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use by adults, where many islanders are expressing weariness with current drug policy. There is no bill drafted or vote scheduled, however, and various government administrations have talked about the issue for decades.
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.
With Jamaica's Ministry of Justice positioning itself to seek approval from Cabinet for the decriminalisation of marijuana, the justice minister Mark Golding said the country is to advance constitutional justification to its international partners for the revision of the law. Golding said the revised law would permit the possession of small amounts of ganja, about two ounces, for recreational use. The House of Representatives gave the nod to a motion calling for the decriminalisation of ganja.
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.
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.
The sky hasn't fallen in either Colorado, Washington State or anywhere over the United States. And it won't in Jamaica. It is high time, therefore, that our Government end the procrastination and legalise marijuana, starting with the decriminalisation of the possession of small amounts by individuals for their personal use. Apart from the evidence that the world won't collapse from such a move, it might make good economic sense for Jamaica - as Colorado is showing.
A recent study has found that a majority of Jamaica’s population may be in support of relaxing the laws prohibiting the use of marijuana. The study, which was conducted by pollster Don Anderson, reveals that 55 per cent of those interviewed felt that the laws criminalising marijuana should be relaxed. Anderson notes that 55 per cent of respondents also believe that marijuana should be commercialised. (See also: Ganja Medicine: Local doctors approve patients' use of marijuana)
History is expected to be created next week when Jamaica's first medical marijuana company, which is intended to be instrumental in extracting the medicinal value from the addictive elements of ganja, comes into being. Internationally renowned Jamaican scientist Professor Henry Lowe, the brainchild behind the initiative, has high hopes for the use of medical marijuana in Jamaica.
Jamaica is to decriminalise ganja by year end as the government moves to capitalise on the booming marijuana trade internationally, said Science and Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell. The minister confirmed that ganja will be decriminalised this year in keeping with parliamentary approval. Paulwell, late last year, had come out in full support of positive developments in ganja locally and internationally and said that "Jamaica will not be left behind" as interest and movements in ganja law reform and research and development grows rapidly. (See also: Ganja green light this year)
Researchers with a Caribbean trade bloc have found that decriminalizing marijuana and exploring its use for medicinal purposes could help boost the region's sluggish economy. Caricom leaders are expected to talk about the preliminary report in a two-day summit that begins Monday in the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent.
In Jamaica, marijuana, or ganja, as it is more commonly known on the Caribbean island, is used in religious ceremonies by Rastafarians and as a herbal medicine by many others. But it is not just grown for local consumption. According to the US state department, Jamaica remains the largest Caribbean supplier of marijuana to the US as well as other Caribbean islands. Cultivation and import of the drug have been illegal since 1913, although those caught with small amounts are rarely prosecuted.
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.
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)