Pubdate: Fri, 20 May 2005
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2005 The Gleaner Company Limited
Author: Trudy Simpson, Staff Reporter


Gov't Chided for Failure to Act on Ganja Recommendations

THE GOVERNMENT was on Wednesday chided for its delay in implementing
recommendations from the Ganja Commission even as more persons called
for decriminalisation of the drug as a means of boosting the country's
flagging economy.

"Rather than taking strong political action, politicians have been
meandering, trying to please the local people and trying to please
foreign masters," said attorney-at-law and rastafarian, Miguel Lorne
during a Gleaner Editors' Forum on the 'Ganja Debate' Wednesday night
at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston.

Lorne was joined by persons from several sectors and members of the
public, who renewed calls for the implementation of the
recommendations of the National Ganja Commission, including the
decriminalisation of ganja or cannabis for personal, private use in
small amounts by adults.


Participants cited marijuana's medicinal and economic benefits as
reasons for decriminalisation. They also referred to what they termed
the 'hypocrisy' of making ganja illegal when 40 per cent of Jamaicans
use the drug. They noted also that other more harmful substances have
been made legal.

"Ganja is not a controversial issue but a political issue," argued
Professor Federick Hickling, head of the section of psychiatry at the
University Hospital of the West Indies. "...What we do know is that
this is illegal and there are much more serious substances ... It is a
contradiction where you have two substances (alcohol and tobacco)
which are much more harmful and cannabis is illegal," he said during
the forum.

Panellists, among them Paul Chang, a founding director of the National
Alliance for the Legalisation of Ganja, and audience members, also
lamented that Jamaica was losing out on potential resources to be
gained from ganja.

He pointed out that other countries have been benefiting from
ganja-derived products by decriminalising the use of the drug.

Mr. Chang added that ganja can be used to boost agriculture,
employment and community tourism.

'Current Laws Causing Confusion'

"The idea is not to only legalise ganja but to tax it, regulate it and
control it. To move the hundreds of billions of dollars that go into
the black market ... to the tax revenue system to build schools and
hospitals .. to help build up the country," Mr. Chang said.

Mr. Lorne said the current ganja laws were causing confusion locally
and were hampering the efforts of the police to fight more serious

"A man is not going to come today and give you information about gun
crimes and you going to come tomorrow and drape him up (over a ganja
spliff) and haul him before the court," Mr. Lorne said to loud applause. 
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