Pubdate: Wed, 23 Jan 2008
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2008 The Gleaner Company Limited
Authors: Glenroy Sinclair, and Petrina Francis, Gleaner Writers
Bookmark: (Youth)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Scores of children - some from very poor families - across Western 
Jamaica are being lured out of school to work in ganja fields, 
helping with the mass production of the narcotic drug for export.

The increase in ganja production over the past six years has kept 
Jamaica on the United States' 'blacklist' as one of the major 
drug-producing countries.

"We have seen evidence to suggest that children are helping in the 
cultivation of the drug," head of the Narcotics Division, Senior 
Superintendent Carlton Wilson, told The Gleaner when contacted yesterday.

His comment was supported by another senior officer who confirmed 
that "it is something that has been happening."


A number of farmers from western Jamaica who spoke with The Gleaner 
yesterday, on condition of anonymity, also confirmed that children 
have been kept busy in the fields cultivating ganja.

John Wayneof St. Elizabeth said he knew of several children who had 
been used to assist in the mass production of the illegal drug within 
the parish, an issue about which people in that community have 
expressed concern.

He claimed that both boys and girls as young as 12 years old, are 
involved on a part-time basis.

"When they reach middle teen some drop out of school and plant it 
(ganja) full-time," said John Wayne.

While some cultivate their own ganja fields when they grow older, 
others who attend school on the shift system are used to tend to the 
marijuana fields before and after classes.

"I doubt if they are paid. They go on the farm with relatives, get a 
pocket money or something like that," said Mr. Wayne.

He pointed to the communities of Slipe and Vineyard that are about 
three and five miles, respectively, from the parish capital of Black 
River, where children are involved in ganja cultivation.

In the meantime, a Westmoreland farmer told The Gleaner that children 
are not allowed on ganja farms as it is the perception that they talk 
a lot. According to him, there is at least one ganja farm operating 
in the parish that has a vehicle specifically for the use of 
transporting workers to and from the location.

Meanwhile, Children's Advocate Mary Clarke yesterday condemned 
parents whose children engage in the cultivation of ganja. She noted 
that parents should be held accountable for this criminal act and 
called for compulsory school attendance and truancy officers in schools.

"I think we have reached the point where we need compulsory 
education," said Mrs. Clarke, adding that children ought to be in 
schools, where the necessary knowledge is imparted and not in ganja fields.

Mrs. Clarke noted that the literacy rate was unsatisfactory and 
chided parents who keep their children away from school.

She reminded parents that there is the Programme of Advancement 
Through Health and Education to assist those who cannot afford to 
send their children to school.

Education Minister Andrew Holness said the government is to soon 
implement compulsory education up to age 18 which, will include 
compulsory attendance and compulsory enrolment.

On Monday the narcotics police seized over 11,300 pounds of 
compressed ganja, which has a street value of close to $1 billion. 
The drug was intercepted at Gordon Cay in the Kingston Harbour. One 
man has been arrested.

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Staff Reporter Shelly-Ann Thompson also contributed to this story.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom