Pubdate: Sun, 15 Jun 2014
Source: Jamaica Observer (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2014 The Jamaica Observer Ltd,
Author: Diane Abbott


JAMAICA'S decision to decriminalise small quantities of cannabis for 
personal use has attracted attention here in Britain. The BBC treated 
the announcement as important news and posted on its website the 
dramatic headline 'Jamaica Government announces major changes to drug 
laws'. The Guardian newspaper had the more factual 'Ganja free: 
Jamaica decriminalises marijuana for personal use'.

Comments online were largely favourable, but many referred to the 
perception that Jamaica had always been relatively tolerant of 
marijuana use. One comment was: "Even 20 years ago all you had to do 
to get stoned in Negril was to stick your head out the window and 
breathe in. Rasta men, both there and in Kingston, used to walk 
around with their own personal 'cloud' around them long before Apple".

Another online commenter said: "When I visited Jamaica the porter had 
slipped a bag into my hand before we were even out of the terminal 
building. I paid him $50 for a bag that lasted two of us two weeks. I 
somehow doubt that possession of weed is a law that is particularly 
actively enforced anyway in Jamaica."

Still another commentator remarked: "While in Jamaica I bought a bud 
the size of my forearm from a taxi driver for $20. It was one of my 
favourite vacations. Beautiful people, wonderful atmosphere, and 
inside of 20 minutes of getting off the plane I had more weed in my 
carry-on than I did back home."

Yet another online commentator, who was apparently from Jamaica, gave 
a local perspective when he said: "The biggest thing this 
decriminalisation does is reduce the potential for police corruption. 
Tourists and visitors would not be subject to that, so would be 
unaware. Now the fear of a charge for a small spliff or bag being 
used against you as a means to extort money from you has been removed 
from the more corrupt and underpaid of our police."

Jamaica's announcement of limited decriminalisation follows Uruguay 
unveiling details of how the actual legalisation of marijuana will 
work in that country. Licensed pharmacies will sell the drug for less 
than $1 a gramme. Every household will be allowed to grow up to six 
cannabis plants each, and people will be able to smoke marijuana 
anywhere that tobacco is smoked.

However, people will not be able to smoke it in the workplace. The 
new regime will begin in December this year.

Meanwhile in Colorado, where full legislation of retail marijuana 
came into effect this January, sales and excise taxes on recreational 
marijuana have already brought in $11 million this year. And the 
total take of recreation and medical marijuana taxes and fees is 
nearly $18 million. Interestingly, in Denver, the capital of 
Colorado, crime has dropped by 10 per cent since marijuana was legalised.

Other American states are looking on with envy at the economic 
bonanza Colorado has reaped since it legalised recreational 
marijuana. States that might go down the same path include Alaska, 
Oregon, Massachusetts, Nevada and Arizona.

No major British political party supports the legalisation of 
marijuana. Nor do I. But it would appear that in the Americas a wind 
of change is blowing on marijuana legalisation. If more American 
states, and South American countries, go down the road of 
legalisation, how long can Jamaica hold out?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom