Jamaica ranked 15th out of 30 countries in global drug policy indexWednesday, November 10, 2021
BY DENIECA-ALEXIA DANIELS
Jamaica ranks 15th out of 30 countries in a new index comparing drug laws based on health and human rights.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy launched the Global Drug Policy Index (GDPI) on Monday November 8.
The index breaks away from conventional measures such as number of arrests made and hectares of drug crops destroyed, but instead focuses on the extent to which national drug policies align with the core UN principles of human rights, health, and development.
It provides each country with a score from 0 to 100, where 100 represents full alignment of a selected core of drug policies and their implementation with the United Nations recommendations on human rights, health and development.
Jamaica had an overall score of 48 out of 100. The island scored 19, 35 and 39 respectively in the areas of 'harm reduction', 'access to medicines' and 'development'. For 'absence of extreme responses' and 'proportionality and criminal justice', Jamaica scored 76 and 65 respectively.
Speaking on Jamaica's ranking, local representative and vice chair of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), Vicki Hanson, noted that the country's position was in keeping with what she said was the fact that little had been done in terms of development, pointing to ongoing issues surrounding the island's ganja industry.
Hanson said Jamaica still lagged behind in developmental policies, adding that it was high time that the cannabis policy was pulled from under the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act of 2015.
“When you look at the index and the index speaks about development, we score at 72/100 (for the management of crop eradication). This is in part fuelled by the fact that we continue to destroy ganja fields, even fields of licensed growers,” Hanson said.
“By removing ganja from the Dangerous Drugs Act, we can begin to develop a regulated policy. So, it is not a free for all but much like how you would have policies for how we use tobacco and alcohol,” added Hanson.
When asked about the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) which was established in 2015 to regulate Jamaica's legal ganja and hemp industry, Hanson said that the agency was not effective in its current form.
“The CLA sees themselves not as a regulator for development of the industry but as a regulator for preventing inversion and diversion. For them you don't want to encourage illicit activity - which we don't want. However at the same time you are bringing an industry out of an illicit state into a legal state. So some of the regulations such as eight-foot fencing and chain link fencing will not be able to be accommodated by your traditional growers, so they are not helped by the regulations and as such are left out,” Hanson explained.
Hanson further said the index indicated Jamaica had a lot of work to do in the drug law reform space.
However, it is not just Jamaica.
Former Prime Minister of New Zealand and chairwoman of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Helen Clark, noted that even the countries that ranked at the top of the index were not doing as well as they should.
"The index rightly paints a bleak picture. No one country deserves to feel good about itself when it comes to drug policy” Clark said.
"The destructive power of punitive and stigmatising drug laws continues to impoverish communities, continues to prevent people who use drugs from accessing life-saving services, and drives countless acts of police brutality and state violence in general,' she added.
The UK, Australia and Canada were among the countries included in the index while the US and EU states except Portugal were not included. According to the commission, in this first iteration of the Global Drug Policy Index, the resource limitations required it to focus on 30 countries only.
“In order to ensure that these countries were geographically representative, we selected at least one country from each of the 17 sub-regions that have been utilised for years by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC),” the commission said, noting that the selection was made on the basis of relevance of drug policy for the selected country; data availability on drugs and drug policy within the country; and in-country presence of civil society organisations that could use the Index for drug policy advocacy without fear of reprisals.
Norway topped the list with an overall score of 74 out of 100 while Indonesia, Uganda and Brazil were at the bottom of the ranking.