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Marijuana train picking up speed

End ‘slash and burn’ on ganja fields, retrain cops now, says Raymond Pryce

BY DESMOND ALLEN Executive editor — special assignment allend@jamaicabserver.com

Monday, June 23, 2014    

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GOVERNMENT Member of Parliament (MP) Raymond Pryce has called for immediate steps to suspend the "slash and burn" policy by cops, to ensure ganja seeds remain for the coming medical marijuana industry.

Pryce, who spearheaded the decriminalisation campaign in the House and saw his efforts bear fruit last week, also called for the immediate retraining of law enforcement officers to keep step with the new environment.

The MP also wants his colleagues to move right away to expunge the records of Jamaicans convicted for using a spliff, or ganja cigarette.

Last week, Justice Minister Mark Golding announced Cabinet had taken the historic step of giving the green light for legislation approving the use of small quantities of ganja, which will essentially decriminalise the weed.

Pryce, the North-east St Elizabeth member of Parliament, moved the resolution for decriminalisation which received bi-partisan support in the House, and followed up Golding's announcement with a suggestion that the Government established a Jamaica Cannabis Research Institute akin to the Jamaica Bauxite Institute and the Scientific Research Council to lead the research towards a cannabis industry.

"We have the people already so it does not require any great learning to get such an institute going," Pryce said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

Pryce will be Jamaica's voice at next month's crucial 10-day conference to review the United Nations' stance on drug policy and human rights in Budapest, Hungary.

The meeting is the latest indication that the world marijuana train is rapidly gathering speed.

Last week, CNN reported Hillary Clinton, the woman expected to run for United States president on the Democratic ticket in 2016, as saying she supported the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes "under appropriate circumstances".

Clinton said she's taking a "wait-and-see" approach to recreational use, according

to CNN.

The respected Economist magazine appears to be in favour of Jamaica's Cabinet decision, noting in its latest edition that "decriminalisation may be a useful first step towards a saner approach to drugs".

"Battling a fearsome murder rate, Jamaica's police surely have better things to do than arrest people for getting high. In any case, sending drug users to jail is usually an expensive waste of time," it said.

The magazine said Jamaica's plan to decriminalise ganja was "good news for the people who harmlessly smoke it. But unless it is followed up eventually by legalisation, there is a danger that it is also good news for the violent crooks who sell it".

In the meantime, one hotelier in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is reported to have found a novel way to increase the occupancy of his hotel by 50 per cent -- allow smoking, and not just tobacco.

Bob Sullivan runs the Howard Johnson's and has remodelled 20 of his hotel's 155 rooms to accommodate smokers, including lawful medical marijuana patients. He plans to eventually convert between 60 and 80 of his rooms to allow smoking, according to Crain's Detroit Business.

The publication said smoke-free hotels had become the norm in America. Back in Jamaica, the Westmoreland Hemp and Ganja Farmers Association said it had received an order for 100,000 grams of the product from an unnamed company in Canada.

The association said it would be submitting "in no more than 90 days" documents requesting an export licence for the product.

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