Opposition says Jamaica does not need Caricom ganja comm

Opposition says Jamaica does not need Caricom ganja comm

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, July 06, 2014

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LEADER of Opposition Business in the Senate Tom Tavares-Finson, has said that the Government should ignore the proposed Caricom Ganja Commission and proceed on the basis of its own two-decade-old ganja commission report.

"We don't need to be a part of any Caricom Commission to discuss ganja. We know what our position is," Senator Tavares-Finson said as he spoke in the debate on the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Bill, which aims to amend the rehabilitation requirements for Jamaicans convicted of minor use of ganja to have their conviction expunged from the criminal records.

However, Minister of Justice Senator Mark Golding, who piloted the amendments, said that Jamaica is already sharing leadership on the issue, based on its own Cabinet decisions.

Senator Tavares-Finson was responding to a report from the Caricom Heads of Government meeting in Antigua & Barbuda on Thursday, that the Community leaders had agreed to establish a Commission to further debate the decriminalisation of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Caricom Secretary General Irwin La Rocque said that while the composition of the Commission is yet to be determined, it would most likely be made up of experts "in their fields". He said that the objective of the Commission would be to conduct an inquiry into the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding marijuana use in the Caribbean.

But Tavares-Finson said that Jamaica has already done that work under the Chevannes Commission, which reported to Parliament in 2001, and participating in the proposed commission would automatically tie the country into the agenda laid down by Caricom.

"Jamaica should not participate in any commission in Caricom to look at ganja. We know what our position is already. Jamaica must establish itself as a leader in this field...You cannot be a part of a Caricom commission and you're taking unilateral decisions. Withdraw from the commission and proceed according to the understanding that we, as Jamaicans, have to implement the Chevannes report, and proceed to do what we are doing without reference to what is happening in Port-of-Spain," Tavares said.

But Senator Golding said that Jamaica was already proceeding on the basis of the changes that the Cabinet has already approved.

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