Free advice to J'can Gov't on Canada's legalisation of ganja

Thursday, October 18, 2018

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WE have some unsolicited advice for the Government of Jamaica, in light of the legalisation of cannabis, or ganja, by the Government of Canada.

Make haste to educate Jamaicans on the repercussions of the Canadian law, lest our foreign ministry be bombarded with requests to bail out Jamaicans held at the airports in Canada, the United States and even in Jamaica.

Despite the obvious excitement in Canada, and the marijuana world, about the legalisation and regulation of the weed in that North American country, there are certain restrictions that must be observed before you light up.

For sure, Bill C-45, as the new Cannabis Act is styled, allows people in Canada, emphasis on Canada, to have on them up to 30 grams of dried cannabis in public, a smaller amount than the two ounces allowed in Jamaica.

C-45 also permits the growing of a certain number of cannabis plants in the home, as is allowed in Jamaica where the weed is not legalised but decriminalised for certain purposes. But here the two countries part company.

The Canadian law insists that the ganja must be obtained legally. Critically, it cannot be taken out of Canada to, for example, the United States, or taken from the US to Canada, without proper authorisation. Many foolish Jamaicans have been deported for doing this in the past. The new law does not change that.

The fact is that cannabis, despite its growing legal status in over 20 American states, is still banned under US federal law and being caught in possession of the weed can result in a lifetime ban from the United States.

In Jamaica, possessing unauthorised amounts of ganja can land one in jail. Transnational drug trafficking or cultivation of illegal plots is still frowned upon by the Jamaican Government which is afraid of US sanctions.

When Jamaica decriminalised ganja three years ago, Mr William Brownfield, the US assistant secretary for counter-narcotics affairs, was more than a little subtle: “Jamaican law is of course Jamaica's own business and Jamaica's sovereign decision…but the trafficking of marijuana into the US remains illegal.

“We expect that Jamaica and all states party to the UN drug conventions will uphold their obligations, including a firm commitment to combating and dismantling criminal organisations involved in drug trafficking,” he said.

Still, the Canadian development opens up enormous opportunities for Jamaica to earn a bag of money from legally growing ganja which has been cultivated here since the indentured Indians brought the plant here with them in 1845.

An initial shipment left Jamaica for Canada this year. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. Jamaica needs to step up its game and go on to legalise ganja, if only for medicinal purposes. Canada expects many marijuana-smoking people to come there for the weed and is already counting the tax revenue.

Let's see what we can learn from the Canadians in getting a move on with our high brand ganja, in which we have some competitive advantage. That's a second piece of unsolicited advice to the Government.

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