PM: War on drugs must be fought in parallel with war on guns
Guns seized by the security forces in Salt Spring, St James, in March 2019.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Tuesday told the more than 500 delegates and dignitaries in attendance at the 37th International Drug Enforcement Conference in Montego Bay, St James, that "the war on drugs must be fought in parallel with the war on guns" to put an end to the loss of life from these illegal trades.

"We no longer say the war against drugs, it's a war to save lives not just from the abuse of drugs but from the use and abuse of guns. I dare say to this august body that the gun is a drug. Persons who are abusing drugs for a quick high, a quick fix are just the flip side of young men, dispossessed, trying to find power and respect looking down the barrel of a gun," Holness told the gathering in the keynote address.

"They are addicted to it. If you really want to make an impact on the war on drugs, rather save lives, we need to place similar efforts tackling the accessibility, availability, and use of illegal guns. There is no drug trade without an armoury somewhere, whether in the forests of Colombia; Mexico, in some city; or they are on the streets of Jamaica in some inner city as a gang of Jamaica," the prime minister said further.

The International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC) is a global law enforcement event focused on addressing the challenges associated with drug enforcement and combatting drug-related crimes. IDEC brings together law enforcement agencies, officials, and experts from various countries to collaborate, share information, and discuss strategies for combatting drug trafficking, drug abuse, and related criminal activities. Key objectives and topics of discussion at IDEC include, among other things, information-sharing by law enforcement agencies about data related to drug trafficking organisations, smuggling routes, and emerging drug trends.

HOLNESS... there is no drug trade without an armoury somewhere

Tuesday, the prime minister said Jamaica is taking keen note of the growing trend involving synthetic drugs in North America.

"While synthetic drugs are not the dominant modality in Jamaica, we are paying close attention; we know that trends in the United States oftentimes become global trends, so we are paying very close attention," he said.

Since the start of this year, there has been two seizures of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (more commonly known as Molly or Ecstasy ) originating from the United States and the Netherlands. There were four similar seizures in 2022. Holness on Tuesday said the production and trafficking of synthetic drugs like Molly and ecstasy have risen significantly in recent times in Jamaica.

In the meantime, he said another worry is the increase in cocaine production in Colombia, given that Jamaica has also seen increased seizures of the substance here.

"It is, therefore, likely that as cocaine production surges, Jamaica may experience a rise in efforts to traffic the illicit substance to and through our ports. The Narcotics Division of our police have been doing good work with early indications indicating that 2023 might be a record year for drug seizures, with the authorities confiscating approximately 1.5 tonnes in January, one of the largest ever drug busts in our country's history," the prime minister said, while pointing out that diplomatic partnerships play a crucial role in the fight against drug trafficking.

Jamaica continues to be the largest Caribbean source country for marijuana and a transit point for cocaine trafficking from South America to North America and Europe. Transnational criminal organisations continue to use Jamaica as a drug trafficking transit location despite efforts to reduce and combat the illicit trafficking of narcotics.

There are an estimated 150 unofficial entry points into Jamaica. The island's geographic location and accessibility facilitates direct routes for narco-trafficking from South and Central America to the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Europe. In addition, the illicit trafficking networks have increased their use of courier services to conduct narcotic shipments to North America and the United Kingdom.

Just last week Jamaica was again among countries listed by the United States as major drug transit or major illicit drug producing countries. The designation was made by US President Joe Biden in the required report for Fiscal Year 2024. Several other Caribbean states, including The Bahamas, Belize, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, are also among the 22 countries named in the Memorandum on Presidential Determination on Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2024.

Biden noted that a country's presence on the foregoing list is not necessarily a reflection of its Government's counter drug efforts or level of cooperation with the United States.

He said the reason countries are placed on the list is the combination of geographic, commercial, and economic factors that allow drugs to be transited or produced even if a Government has engaged in robust and diligent narcotics control and law enforcement measures.

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter

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