Pubdate: Tue, 28 Aug 2001
Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)
Copyright: 2001 Orlando Sentinel
Author: William E. Gibson
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


WASHINGTON -- Jamaica, long known for producing some of the world's most 
potent marijuana, is considering allowing adults to use the drug for 
private purposes, Prime Minister Percival James Patterson confirmed Monday.

Jamaica's potential shift in drug strategy follows the path of other 
nations, including Canada, which have slackened enforcement of marijuana 
laws or reduced penalties.

Jamaica's move would be especially significant because of its proximity to 
the United States, bountiful tourism and record as the leading producer of 
marijuana in the Caribbean.

A panel set up to study the issue recommended this month decriminalizing 
the drug known by Jamaicans as ganja -- a recommendation that Patterson 
called "persuasive."

"We are not considering legalizing it in the sense of making it legal for 
people to grow, to sell, to export," Patterson said while visiting his 
nation's embassy in Washington. "It is for private use, and of course it 
will have to be confined to adults."

"Certainly nobody should be coming to Jamaica with the belief that, as a 
result of the amendments we would be making, it would be possible for them 
to be, you know, indulging in smoking in public places or taking back with 
them any of the stuff that they had failed to consume in Jamaica."

U.S. officials have strongly discouraged legalization movements at home and 
abroad for fear they would lead to wider drug use. A State Department 
official who insisted on anonymity said Monday that Jamaica's move toward 
decriminalization would violate a United Nations accord of 1988 designed to 
prevent the spread of illegal drugs.

While anti-drug crusaders warn that marijuana is a "gateway" to other 
illegal drugs, legalization proponents contend that law-enforcement 
resources should focus on more significant crime problems.

Some other nations, particularly in Europe, are softening their marijuana 
laws. Canada allows severely ill patients with a doctor's approval to apply 
to grow and use marijuana. Portugal, Belgium and Switzerland have removed 
or reduced criminal penalties for drug use, and enforcement has been 
reduced in many other nations.

Mexican President Vicente Fox has suggested that drugs should eventually be 

In Jamaica, ganja has long been a cultural symbol associated with some 
African-inspired religious beliefs. Widespread use of the drug has made 
enforcement more difficult, adding to pressures to legalize it.

Patterson said the Jamaican Parliament will consider the matter at its 
autumn session
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