Ministers back ganja education campaign

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Ministries of Government have given their full support to the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) 'Talk Di Truth' public-education campaign aimed at engaging youngsters in discussion and information-sharing surrounding marijuana use.

The initiative is targeted at youths aged 13-18, and the objective is to teach them the facts so as to reduce abuse of the substance.

Every high school across Jamaica will have the opportunity to host members of the NCDA to allow for frank discussion on ganja use, including its effects. The NCDA team will also train peer leaders, who will be responsible for imparting information to other students.

The benefits of the programme include receiving and providing current information to school populations about substance abuse; training of school staff in substance use and misuse; assisting with the development of school policies on substance use/misuse; and the provision of school-counselling support for students and student-leader development initiatives.

At the launch held at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel yesterday, Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Ruel Reid, said the use of marijuana and other drugs has caused many of the nation's promising youth to fail.

He said it is through education “that we can save other youth who are vulnerable”.

“The abuse of drugs, especially by children and young adults, is a key concern of our ministry. Our schools continue to infuse messaging on drug abuse into the Health and Family Life Education Programme as well as other subject areas. The ministry also continues to do a lot of sensitisation work at the community level via the use of various fora. We recognise that there is still far more work that needs to be done,” he noted.

Health Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, pledged to work closely with the NCDA to spread the initiative across the island.

He said 'Talk Di Truth' is a serious campaign, which, he hopes, will have a positive impact on the society and make a difference in homes.

“We need to protect the minds of the future generation, even while we explore the medicinal benefits of the substance. Reports from stakeholders in law enforcement, education and health have been consistent regarding public perception… particularly among young people, that cannabis is now a legal drug to be used at leisure regardless of location, age, quantity and context,” he pointed out.

Justice Minister, Delroy Chuck, in voicing his support, stressed that the amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act did not legalise the use of cannabis/ganja, but instead, created a framework for decriminalisation for specific purposes.

The law also makes possession of two ounces or less of marijuana a non-arrestable, ticketable offence that attracts no criminal record. This is aimed at reducing the burden on the court system.

“I know that in recent times, especially with the use of under two ounces not being a court matter that the impression that one gets is that far too many youngsters have taken up the use of marijuana. We have to get that message out to our young people that the use of marijuana and the use of hard drugs have the probability of destroying your minds and, therefore, it is very important that we emphasise and send that message,” he said.

The three ministers were joined by State Minister for National Security, Pearnel Charles Jr in signing a pledge with the NCDA Executive Director, Michael Tucker, in support of the campaign.

Local artistes Devin Di Dakta and Ikaya, who also signed on, have recorded a jingle, which will be played during the school visits.

The Jamaica Secondary School Survey indicates that 20 per cent of participants reported that they smoked marijuana at some point in their lifetime, while the average age of first use of marijuana was 13.

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