Pubdate: Mon, 10 Dec 2012
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2012 The Gleaner Company Limited


IF JAMAICANS were to be asked to vote whether the use of marijuana
should be decriminalised, at least one clergyman would be among those
saying aye.

The Reverend Karl Johnson yesterday told The Gleaner that it is time
Jamaica move towards decriminalising the use of marijuana.

"I think many of us have long advocated for that in circumstances that
would point to marijuana not being used for export," Johnson told The
Gleaner yesterday.

His comments come against the background of a Sunday Gleaner article
on the weekend in which local parliamentarians have supported a move
by two US states, Washington and Colorado, to decriminalise and
regulate the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana by adults
over 21.

Under the law in both states, the trafficking, growing and selling of
marijuana to family members and friends would still be illegal.

Legislators, including Justice Minister Mark Golding, opined that
Jamaica could follow suit without any backlash from the US federal

Yesterday, Johnson made it clear that he is among those who think the
use of the weed should be decriminalised.

"Decriminalisation, in my mind, is a rational step to take," Johnson
said, while noting that many youth have had blemishes on their police
records because they have been caught using small quantities of marijuana.

According to Johnson, based on literature he has perused, senior
contributors to some developed nations would have had these offences
on their record had they been caught.

Johnson was quick to distinguish though between decriminalisation and
legalisation, and said he was speaking as a citizen, not on behalf of
any organisations of which he is a member.

But some clergymen will not be moved. The Reverend Sylvester O'Gilvie,
one of the pastors at Church on the Rock, is adamant that even in
small amounts, it would not be a good idea to decriminalise the use of

"I would not support it," he said. "Whatever it is that can destroy
the human mind and body, I am against it."

He admitted there was evidence to show that marijuana and other plants
could be used for medicinal purposes, which he would support. But for
personal use, even small amounts, is a no-no.

"It doesn't matter if it's just an ounce," he said. "Most times people
get addicted to any drugs, you started with a small portion."

O'Gilvie opined that there is no guarantee the users will keep within
the law either.

"If they get addicted, people will start to store more than just an
ounce," he said.

Decriminalisation is a system that punishes offences by means of
alternative sentencing to imprisonment or incarceration. In the case
of marijuana it is usually limited to possession and growth of small
quantities, and the sale of small amounts to adults.

In 2003, a government-appointed commission recommended
decriminalisation of marijuana. However, citing possible economic
sanctions, successive governments have continued the prohibition.
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