Pubdate: Wed, 27 Apr 2005
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2005 The Gleaner Company Limited
Author: Earl Moxam and Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writers
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


THE UNITED States Government is maintaining its opposition to
decriminalising the use of marijuana as is being contemplated in Jamaica.

According to David Murray, the special assistant to the director of
the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), this approach is a
prescription for failure, which will only make the drug problems more

He noted that the evidence against the proposal to decriminalise the
personal use of ganja is now more convincing, citing the United
Kingdom as one example where the proposal has failed.

"They said the experience has not worked. They are reclassifying
marijuana ... it's dangerous and it impacts our society," he told The

Mr. Murray also said a similar situation exists in Holland where ganja
is said to be recognised in some cases as being progressive. But
according to him, that country has seen unintended consequences
prompting it to 'get away' from cannabis cafe and the distribution of
cannabis among young people.

Mr. Murray said there must be a rejection of all elements of the drug
culture if society is to overcome the associated problems.

Statements Rebuffed

In the meantime, Professor Barry Chevannes, a member of the
government-appointed National Ganja Commission (NGC), has rebuffed Mr.
Murray's statements as "most unfortunate".

"There is absolutely no substance to that argument - decriminalisation
will make things better," Dr. Chevannes told The Gleaner yesterday.
"For example, no longer will youths be arrested for smoking."

Last year the 15-member NGC submitted its report to the joint select
committee of Parliament, which includes a recommendation for among
other things the decriminalisation of small quantities of ganja.

Professor Chevannes said the committee had approved all but one of the
NGC's seven recommendations, the exception being the lifting of
restrictions on persons and organisations that use the plant for
religious purposes.

Heading the list of recommendations was a request for an amendment of
the law that sees private users, including minors, being prosecuted.
The NGC recommends that minors be tried in petty sessions and, if
fined, they leave court without a criminal record.

The NGC was appointed in 2000 by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson.
Professor Chevannes says there is absolutely no merit in Mr. Murray's
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