Law up in ganja smoke

Tufton concerned about disregard for Act among marijuana users

BY HORACE HINES
Observer staff reporter

Monday, October 21, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is expressing grave concern over what he said has been blatant disregard for the ban of smoking in public spaces, especially by marijuana users who are observed indiscriminately lighting up in restricted areas.

“We had amended legislation to ban smoking in public, and what I have seen in my own way, in my own movements and this is anecdotal now is that people tend to be lighting up more marijuana sticks than tobacco. And it is almost as if there is a separation between smoking marijuana in public and smoking cigarettes in public,” Dr Tufton told journalists in Montego Bay.

“It is something that is worrying to me because of the mind-altering and brain-altering properties of marijuana. People driving and smoking at same time, and all the potential risk that that poses from a public health perspective... It is a discussion that we need to have in Government and the enforcement of the law,” Tufton said.

Under the Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations 2013 smoking is prohibited in specified public spaces.

The regulations prohibit smoking in specified public places, including all enclosed public places, enclosed workplaces, public conveniences, government-occupied buildings, health facilities including pharmacies, sports, athletic or other similar facilities for the use of the public, educational institutions, areas specifically for use by children and bus stops, and departure and arrival waiting areas at a port or station for any form of transportation.

Tufton disclosed that he is in dialogue with National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang about the enforcement of penalties for those in breach of the Act.

The penalties applicable for breaches of the Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations 2013 are as follows:

• In the case of a first offence, a fine of up to $10,000;

• For a second offence, up to $25,000; and

• For subsequent offences, up to $50,000.

Businesses, including clubs, bars, restaurants, and tourist establishments which breach the regulations may be fined up to $1 million.

“We have jurisdiction under the Public Health Act where we can cite establishments for allowing smoking in public, but also the minister of national security, my colleague Minister Chang, and I are having discussions as to how we can improve the enforcement mechanism. But I am prepared to say it is a problem,” Dr Tufton said.

He argued that people are misinterpreting that decriminalisation of ganja following the amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act in 2015, as it does not allow for the smoking of weed in public spaces.

The health and wellness minister, however, pointed out that comprehensive legislation coming by the end of the year is expected to address the issue of smoking in public.

“While we have made some progress in terms of the amendments to the legislation, and for the most part it is observed, there is an emerging trend of persons smoking in public and, in particular, there is an interpretation that the relaxation of the laws around marijuana consumption also supports marijuana consumption or smoking in public. And that is something that the new comprehensive legislation that we are coming with will address, very comprehensively all types of smoking. But, in the meantime, I think it is something that we need to take some public position on,” Dr Tufton argued.


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