Pubdate: Thu, 20 Sep 2001
Source: Jamaica Observer (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2001 The Jamaica Observer Ltd.


Observer/Stone Poll

UP to 10 per cent more Jamaicans are against the government's move to
decrimalise the use of marijuana by adults than, compared to those,
mainly young people, who say that the drug should be legalised,
according to a survey for the Observer done by the Stone

However, with 48.3 per cent of people now saying that marijuana,
called ganja in Jamaica, should be free for personal use, attitudes
have softened from two decades ago when two-thirds of the population
felt that the government should keep a tight lid on freeing up the

At that time, though, nearly a similar percentage did mind marijuana
being exported to the United States and were vehement against then
prime minister, Edward Seaga, bending to US pressure to clamp down on
the trade.

This latest survey was conducted on August 26 and 27 when Stone
interviewed 600 people, aged 18 and over, and has a margin of error of
plus or minus four per cent.

The survey comes not long after a recent report by a
government-appointed task force, chaired by Professor Barry Chevannes,
which recommended decrimalisation of the drug. That report is soon to
be debated in Parliament where legislators are expected to be freed
from party discipline and allowed to vote on conscience.

Stone found that the biggest bulk of support for legalisation of the
drug was among teens and people in their 20s and 30s, although there
was also relatively decent support among older people.

For instance, half of teenagers were in favour of free personal use of
marijuana, compared to 41 per cent for people in their 20s and 42 per
cent for people in their 30s. Surprisingly, a third of people in their
60s supported legalisation, higher than people in their 40s (32 per
cent) and those in their 50s (31 per cent).

Among people who opposed freeing-up marijuana, the strong support, 58
per cent, was among people in their 50s, two points higher than in
people in the 40s age grouping. Thirty-two per cent of teenagers were
against legalisation, compared with 45 per cent of people in their
20s, more of whom were against free use of marijuana than people in
their 60s (42 per cent).

Just about half (49) per cent of people in their 30s were also against
a more liberal approach to marijuana.

48% against decriminalising ganja Observer/Stone Poll Observer Stone
Reporter Thursday, September 20, 2001

MOST Jamaicans feel that ganja should not be decriminalised, a survey
conducted by the Stone Polling Organisation for the Observer has
found. Following are details of the poll results.


Do you believe that the law should be amended to make it legal for
adults to take ganja for personal use, either for recreation or for
religious or health purposes? Why do you think so?


No, it should not be made legal........48.3%

Yes, it should be made legal...............38.4%

Don't know.......................................13.3%


Twenty-five years ago, when this question was asked in the August 1976
Stone Poll, only a small 8% had no views on the matter, while the
matter was evenly divided between those who were for the legalisation
and those who were against it.

In the February 1981 Stone Poll, 66% of those polled believed that
government should not free up the ganja trade, while 31% were of the
view that people should be free to grow and export the weed without
pressure from the authorities.

Ironically, in the July 1981 Stone Poll, 62% were against then Prime
Minister Seaga's planned steps to reduce the ganja trade to the USA,
while a minority (36%) supported his policy position. As the late Carl
Stone said then, "The currently debated issue of whether a cut-back in
the trade is desirable provides quite precise index of just what
proportion of the public looks favourably on the ganja trade,
regardless of whether they are users or growers or dealers or citizens
who have no connection with ganja."

In the present poll, the main viewpoint still speaks to non-support of
the legalisation of the drug for personal use.

Those who support legalisation believe the drug has medicinal uses
which ought to be researched and/or utilised. Others speak of its use
being already acceptable in Jamaican society and the money which can
be made from it.

Those who are against legalisation share the view that ganja is
dangerous and that its legalisation will further contribute to crime
in a society that is already teeming with criminal activities.
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