Pubdate: Wed, 26 Apr 2006
Source: Jamaica Observer (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2006 The Jamaica Observer Ltd,
Author: Anthony Gomes
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Popular)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


It was recently reported that the five joint select committees of the
Senate would be reconvened to conclude its earlier deliberations.
Included in the five is the National Commission on ganja that seeks to
have the Dangerous Drugs Act amended specifically to allow the private
use of ganja without the possibility of criminal sanction.

As an observation, in the US people under the age of 21 consume the
majority of illegal drugs. Adolescent admissions to drug abuse
facilities for marijuana grew from 43 per cent of all adolescent
admissions in 1994 to 60 per cent in 1999.

After two years of costly inconclusive consideration, continuance of
the deliberations represents an extravagant gesture pandering to those
who seek instant illegal and injurious self-gratification, while
issues of far greater import await the Senate's attention.

National polls and other expressions of public concern have adequately
demonstrated that the majority of Jamaicans do not agree with
decriminalising ganja. Ganja is not dangerous because it is illegal.
It is illegal because it is dangerous.

Apart from the powerful international treaties to which Jamaica is a
signatory, the aversion to ganja use has been reinforced by recent
experiences in North America and Europe that has caused a review of
the harmful potential of cannabis that contains tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in ganja.

With Jamaica in a perennial state of crisis, dominated by the soaring
murder rate, the exceptionally high national debt burden, the serious
under-performance of the educational system and the desperate search
for economic growth and employment creation, the Senate's attention
could surely be directed towards more germane and progressive issues
for the greater benefit of the people as a whole.

The pros and cons of the ganja debate have been copiously documented.
As time goes by more evidence of the harmful effects of the drug are
coming to light.

In November 2005, Dr De La Haye, president of the Psychiatry
Association of Jamaica and clinical director of the Detoxification
Unit of the University Hospital of the West Indies, stated: "Ganja can
make you mad, so why take a chance and use it? We do believe that
cannabis is playing a role in violence in this country. Cannabis has
tetrahydrocanabinnol (THC) which brings out aggression in people."

To add an authoritative foreign viewpoint: "The US Congress enacted
laws against marijuana in 1970 based in part on its conclusion that
marijuana has no scientifically proven medical value, which the US
Supreme Court affirmed more than 30 years later in United States vs
Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative, et al, 432 US 483 (2001).
Marijuana remains in schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act
because it has a high potential for abuse, a lack of accepted safety
for use under medical supervision, and no currently accepted medical

"The British Medical Association has taken a similar position, voicing
'extreme concern' that downgrading the criminal status of marijuana
would 'mislead' the public into thinking that the drug is safe to use
when 'in fact, it has been linked to greater risk of heart disease,
lung cancer, bronchitis, and emphysema'.

Some time ago, it was reported that drug courts have been established
to control ganja use without necessarily charging users of small
quantities with a criminal offence.

The court allows offenders when apprehended to avoid criminal
sanctions on condition they enter into a rehab programme under the
court's supervision. Otherwise they would face criminal charges. This
facility removes the mandatory stigma of a criminal record, provided
the foregoing condition is satisfied. This arrangement should offer
some solace to the protagonists.

Let us finally scotch the old repetitive argument regarding the
medicinal properties of ganja that cites products manufactured locally
by Dr Albert Lockhart and Dr Manley West, namely, Canasol, Cantimol
and Asmasol.

These products are legitimate pharmaceuticals that contain cannabis as
an ingredient and sold in the domestic and export markets. Most
important, it should be noted that according to Dr Albert Lockhart,
tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is not used in the preparation of these

Finally and most potently, the international treaties mentioned
earlier to which Jamaica is a signatory do not permit the
decriminalisation of ganja. This has been stated clearly by Michael
Hylton, solicitor general, and Stephen Vasciannie, a leading legal

The United States has demonstrated the long reach of its economic
sanctions when applied against wayward states that can result in
desertification that would bring serious damaging consequences in its

As the "Third Border" of the United Sates where the possession or use
of ganja is a federal offence, and with whom Jamaica and Caricom may
soon start negotiations for a Free Trade Area, any attempt at
decriminalising ganja can only be deemed as reckless.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake