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Cannabis conference wants quick action on ganja decriminalisation

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter henryb@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, May 26, 2014    

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THE first Jamaica Cannabis Conference ended at the University of the West Indies, Mona on Saturday, with a declaration from participants that the Government immediately put in place a road map, of no more than 120 days, to deal with the decriminalisation issues.

The conference, boasting a high-level list of international speakers concerned with medical cannabis and other related issues, from Jamaica, Israel, Canada, China and the United States, declared that no "meaningful results", in terms of legislative reforms, had emerged from various parliamentary committees and consultations which have been pursued.

The participants, therefore, called on the Government to create the road map to immediately expunge the criminal record of all Jamaicans who have been convicted for the smoking and for the possession of small amounts non-compressed ganja.

It also wants to see amendments to the relevant laws so that ganja is decriminalised for the private, personal use of small quantities by adults and for it to be fully recognised as a sacramental rights of the Rastafari community to use ganja in their homes and places of worship. It further called for the establishment of a sustained all-media, all-schools education programme, aimed at demand reduction and that its target should be, in the main, young people.

The declaration called for the establishment of a properly regulated medical cannabis industry that incorporates cultivation, agro processing and other relevant ingredients critical for its success as well as to significantly increase the penalties for all illegal exportation, and persons found with compressed ganja, so as not to allow this illegality to contaminate the tremendous potential of a regulated medical cannabis industry.

The participants also agreed, in principle, and endorsed the Submission on the Rights of Ganja Usage (Updated document, Thursday 22nd May, 2014) by the Rastafarian Millennium Council, and generally supported by representatives of the Rastafarian Community present.

"We fully support the Conference Theme, 'Wake up Jamaica, Our Opportunities are Slipping Away', and strongly urge our legislators to act expeditiously, and not fall prey to undue caution, legalism and conservatism, or trying to get a 'picture- perfect' solution, leading to inaction," the declaration from the conference said.

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