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Decriminalisation of ganja has serious implications — PM

Luke Douglas

Wednesday, November 17, 2010    

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THE decriminalisation of ganja in Jamaica is no simple task as such action has serious foreign policy implications, Prime Minister Bruce Golding indicated last Friday.

The prime minister said talks were ongoing with the United States to determine how any reform of Jamaica's ganja laws would be compatible with the ongoing fight against illegal drugs.

He was responding to questions from the Observer about the lack of implementation of the recommendations of the nine-year-old report of the National Commission on Ganja, which was chaired by the late Professor Barrington "Barry" Chevannes.

"There is a major challenge we face in actualising some of the recommendations, and that has to do with the foreign policy implications of decriminalisation," Golding said. "Decriminalisation can invoke international consequences which would pose severe challenges for us."

However, he said discussions on the issue were ongoing. "We are continuing to engage particularly the United States in terms of how our policy on the use of ganja can be addressed", he said.

The prime minister noted that each year the US publishes a report certifying countries on their level of conforming with anti-drug policy.

"That certification has significant impact in terms of our trade arrangements with the United States... The discussions to see to what extent there is compatibility between the reform of our ganja laws and our international obligations in relation anti-drug policy, those discussions continue," he said.

Golding made the comments minutes after the Order of Jamaica was presented posthumously to Chevannes by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen and accepted by his widow Pauletta at King's House.

The report of the National Commission on Ganja, delivered to then prime minister PJ Patterson in 2001 by the seven-person commission after nine months of consultation and inquiry, made a number of recommendations, including:

* that the law be amended so that ganja be decriminalised for the private, personal use of small quantities by adults;

* that decriminalisation should exclude smoking by juveniles or by anyone in public premises; and

* that ganja should be decriminalised for use as a sacrament for religious purposes.

The commission also recommended a sustained education campaign in the media and in schools at reducing demand among young people; that the security forces intensify interdiction of large cultivation of ganja and trafficking of all illegal drugs; and that an agency be set up to research all aspects of ganja, including its epidemiological and psychological effects, and its pharmacological and economic potential.

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