Clear up inconsistencies in the proposed ganja reform

Clear up inconsistencies in the proposed ganja reform

Sunday, June 15, 2014

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Generally we support the proposed reforms to the law relating to the use and possession of ganja as outlined by Justice Minister Mark Golding last week.

Where we have a difficulty with the Administration's proposals, though, is the intention to make the possession of small quantities of marijuana a ticketable offence.

According to Minister Golding, the "possession of two ounces or less will become [a] non-arrestable, ticketable infraction attracting a monetary penalty which shall be payable outside the court system and which does not give rise to a criminal record".

Minister Golding, we hold, is correct that the lives of too many people, particularly young men, have been negatively affected by a conviction for possession of small amounts of ganja. Indeed, we share his view that limiting the life prospects of individuals through this type of conviction is a human rights issue.

But the Government, we believe, is not only being timid, but is sending conflicting signals by proposing that possession of two ounces or less of ganja for personal use will attract a fine.

How does that square with the Government's proposal to allow the use of the herb for religious purposes?

Also, if a medical practitioner prescribes that amount of ganja for a patient, is the Government saying that that patient, if found with his/her prescribed amount, will be fined?

It simply doesn't make sense.

The Administration needs to rethink that provision and shed its fear of offending friendly governments that have been more than generous in aiding Jamaica over many years.

As Minister Golding pointed out in his statement, a number of countries, among them Australia, Argentina, the Netherlands, Portugal, India, Ecuador, Uruguay, as well the US states of Colorado and Washington now permit the use of small amounts of marijuana by adults in private.

We have also seen a few American states reaping attractive and well-needed revenue from the sale of small amounts of marijuana for medicinal use, while we in Jamaica dither on the issue, despite the fact that it was our scientists who first developed a medicinal drug from ganja many years ago.

Despite that, we believe it's not too late for Jamaica to start benefiting economically from research and development of marijuana for medical and industrial uses.

The Government just needs to press the gas on this issue, while being careful not to crash the car.

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