Pubdate: Sun, 04 Sep 2005
Source: Jamaica Observer (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2005 The Jamaica Observer Ltd,
Author: Arlene Martin Wilkins


No one shows for ganja forum

THE weed itself is vastly popular, pungently so. But given a chance
yesterday, even those who imbibe stayed away from a forum put together by
lobbyists for decriminalising ganja. Virtually no one showed up. To be more
precise, only four people were there.

The meeting, hosted by the Coalition for Ganja Law Reform and meant to push
support for reform of the laws governing the use of marijuana locally,
attracted only three members of the group's board of directors and the guest
speaker Dr Morais Guy who chairs the Joint Select Committee examining
recommendations of the National Commission on Ganja.

Despite the lack of participants at the Knutsford Court Hotel, Guy used the
opportunity to update the coalition members on the progress of the
recommendations that is now up for debate in parliament, having been tabled
last year.

"There's a feeling that the delay has to do with inertia on the part of the
committee and the unwillingness for government to explore the Chevannes
report," Guy said.

"However, many factors intervened and that included the fact that the
parliamentary year was restricted in terms of the number of debates we could
have," he added, assuring that he will have the report debated on during the

Yesterday, Guy also said he was concerned that Jamaica could get left behind
if government fails to give the issue the attention it needs.

"I feel strongly that in the whole scheme of things internationally we are
going to be left behind in terms of what we can get from ganja economically
and what we can do with it economically," he said referring, countries such
as Australia, Canada an even some corners of the United States that have
somewhat soften their policies on the weed.

"It is for those reasons, he continued, why we want to push and see that
work come to a conclusion and then we take it to the next level after the
debate then exercise some pressure so that the recommendations do not end up
into a file 13," he explained.

Yesterday, Paul Chang of the coalition urged the committee to accelerate the
process, highlighting economic as well as the medicinal properties of the
weed which he said was recently declared by researchers as having certain
fatty acids that are beneficial to humans.

He also made it clear that his coalition does not, in any way, support the
use of the weed by minors or advocate the illegal use or trafficking of the

The National Commission on Ganja was led by University of the West Indies
professor, Barry Chevannes.

Among the commission's recommendations were for the amendment of laws so
that ganja can be decriminalise personal and private use of ganja by adults.

The committee also recommended that the criminal records Rehabilitation of
Offenders Act be amended, "to ensure that these minor offences not be
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