Simpson Miller-Obama administrations should start talking about ganja

Thursday, February 27, 2014    

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WE think that the Jamaican public, including the political Opposition, is at a heightened state of readiness for the decriminalisation, if not the legalisation of ganja and that the Government should now be more definitive about its policy on the issue.

Mr Phillip Paulwell's message to the Cannabis Commercial and Medicinal Research Taskforce (CCMRT) meeting last week was quietly delivered. He then left it to the task force, still a private entity, to make the announcement. Even then, he merely gave an opinion that the weed might be decriminalised for certain purposes some time this year, and spoke about the multiple economic, social and cultural benefits that Jamaica stands to gain if the laws are adjusted "sooner rather than later".

But Mr Paulwell, who is also the minister of science, technology, energy, and mining, under which the lead agency, the Scientific Research Council falls, gave no specific timeline beyond saying "some time this year", and did not indicate the basis on which he was offering that opinion.

Such an announcement or expression of an opinion by the Leader of Government Business in the House begs for some other pertinent information. For example, in preparation for decriminalisation, should the Jamaica Constabulary Force suspend its practice of arresting people in possession of ganja or the destruction of ganja fields? Indeed, if Jamaica is going to decrminalise the weed for medicinal purposes, within a few months time, we will need supplies that risk being destroyed during the time lag. This makes very little sense.

Moreover, how should the courts deal with ganja possession cases now before it? There is the real possibility that persons convicted in the interim may have to be pardoned. This is already looking very untidy.

The task force meeting, attended last Thursday by Mr Paulwell at the PCJ Auditorium in Kingston, reportedly agreed to the formal launch of the proposed Future Ganja Growers Association next month to spearhead the establishment of a local ganja industry, which advocates are convinced will pump billions of dollars into the Jamaican economy. The minister might wish to let the country know if such an organisation can be legally established prior to the decriminalising of ganja, and would the Government be having any dealings with the association.

But, perhaps even more importantly, we have heard of no government initiative to approach the Barack Obama Administration, through the United States Department of State or the Department of Justice, to discuss any likely fallout from Jamaica going ahead and decriminalising ganja. Despite the rash of US states decriminalising or legalising marijuana, the Federal Government has not yet done so, even if it is conveniently turning a blind eye.

Indeed, our foreign minister, Mr A J Nicholson, recently expressed in a speech to diplomats during Diplomatic Week his own doubts about how the US would react to Jamaican action to 'free up the weed'. We note that some leaders of Jamaican organisations in the US have also expressed similar doubts and urged caution, despite their obvious support for decriminalisation.

There is a great deal more work to be done, so let's get cracking.





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