Pubdate: Tue, 12 Feb 2002
Source: Reuters (Wire)
Copyright: 2002 Reuters Limited


KINGSTON, Jamaica, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Jamaican lawmakers will debate whether
marijuana should be legal for adults to smoke privately in small quantities,
the government said.

At its weekly meeting on Monday, the Jamaican Cabinet forwarded a commission
recommendation that marijuana, commonly called ganja, be decriminalized for
private, medicinal or religious use by adults, Information Minister Colin
Campbell said.

Lawmakers will take up the recommendation made in August 2001 by the
government-appointed National Commission on Ganja, which said marijuana use
should remain illegal for minors and in public places, and that cultivation
and exportation of marijuana still be outlawed.

Under current law, possession of a small quantity of marijuana, such as one
cigarette, is punishable by a small fine or up to 10 days in jail.

Smoking marijuana is considered a sacrament by Jamaica's minority
Rastafarian religious sect.

A joint select committee of the Jamaican parliament will decide whether the
law should be changed, government officials said, with no time limit to act.

But the move is opposed by the United States, which argues such a plan could
hurt drug interdiction efforts.

The Caribbean nation of 2.6 million people is a large producer of marijuana
and a significant trans-shipment point for cocaine bound for the United

The U.S. government has worked with Jamaica to destroy marijuana crops and
stem exportation. In 2000, Jamaica eradicated more than 1,200 acres of
cannabis and seized 55.9 metric tonnes of marijuana and more than 3,580
pounds of cocaine.
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