Gay Nagle Myers says that Jamaica may be one step closer to legalizing marijuana. In early June, the government announced plans to partially decriminalize possession of small amounts of ganja and to allow possession for religious, scientific and medical purposes. Here are excerpts:
As of now, selling, distributing, buying, carrying and using ganja (the Sanskrit word for hemp) is against the law in Jamaica, which could come as a surprise to many visitors, given its availability and the ease of obtaining the giant joints known as spliffs. However, it is not yet legal.
Encouraged by legalized pot in Colorado, Washington state and Uruguay, it appears that some Jamaican politicians are backing an effort to transform an underground economy into a source of taxable revenue. Mark Golding, Jamaica’s minister of justice, said the government is backing a proposal to make possession of no more than two ounces of marijuana a petty offense that would result in a fine but not a criminal arrest. Ticketed offenders would be able to pay their fine outside of Jamaica’s court system and there would be no criminal record. Another proposed change would expunge the criminal records of people convicted for possession of small amounts of the drug, according to Golding.
Golding also announced that marijuana would be decriminalized for religious purposes, which would be a victory for the Rastafarians who consider smoking marijuana a sacred act but have faced the possibility of prosecution for doing so. “The proposed changes to the law are not intended to promote or give a stamp of approval to the use of ganja for recreational purposes,” Golding said in his statement on reforms to the laws relating to marijuana. “The objective is to provide a more enlightened approach to dealing with possession in small quantities.” This latest proposal, introduced by Golding, could come before a vote in Parliament before the end of the year.
Jamaica has studied the pros and cons of this issue for years. [. . .] At that time, the Cannabis Research Agency was established in collaboration with other countries to coordinate research into all aspects of ganja. Reaction among other Caribbean countries to Jamaica’s proposal was mixed. St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves is leading an effort to have Caribbean leaders study the social, legal and public health impact of legalizing ganja use. [. . .] The Cannabis Movement of St. Lucia, however, expressed concern over Jamaica’s move to implement changes regarding possession and smoking of marijuana. [. . .]
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