Pubdate: Thu, 02 Oct 2014
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: 2014 The Scotsman Publications Ltd
Author: David Mcfadden
Page: 28


JAMAICA'S justice minister has said legislation has been drafted to 
decriminalise marijuana on the Caribbean island where the drug has 
been pervasive but prohibited for a century.

Mark Golding told reporters that parliament should make possession of 
two ounces or less a petty offence before the end of 2014.

He also expects decriminalisation for religious purposes to be 
authorised by then, allowing adherents of the homegrown Rastafarian 
spiritual movement to ritually smoke marijuana - which they consider 
a "holy herb" - without fear of arrest.

Mr Golding said it would take longer to agree on more complex changes 
to Jamaica's Dangerous Drugs Act needed to spur a medical marijuana 
and cannabis research sector. He said Jamaica, where scientists 
developed a cannabis-derived medication to treat glaucoma decades 
ago, is "well-positioned to be a forerunner" in efforts to research 
therapeutic uses of the plant.

As Jamaica advances marijuana decriminalisation, the government is 
committed to battling drug traffickers, Mr Golding stressed.

He said keeping marijuana away from children, the international black 
market and organised crime would remain a top priority.

Previous efforts to decriminalise marijuana, or "ganja" as it is 
commonly known in Jamaica, failed to advance because Jamaican 
officials feared they would violate international treaties and bring 
sanctions from the United States. But those concerns have eased now 
that a number of nations and some US states have relaxed marijuana laws.

Mr Golding said the regulatory framework needed for a medical 
marijuana and research industry in Jamaica was still being mulled over.

Setting maximum limits on marijuana cultivation is not anticipated, 
he said, but the government wants to ensure that small farmers "were 
not excluded and it does not just become something exclusively for 
major capital-intensive investors".

Ethan Nadelmann, head of the non-profit Drug Policy Alliance, a 
pro-legalisation group based in New York, called Mr Golding's 
announcement a "significant step forward".

"[It's] both noteworthy in that Jamaica is reforming policies on 
possession, religious use and medical use at more or less the same 
time, and politically important in providing leadership in the 
Caribbean," he said.

A recent preliminary report by the Caribbean Community of 15 nations 
and territories said medical marijuana could help boost the region's economy.

Currently in Jamaica, cultivation, retail and consumption is illegal. 
However this is often overlooked and cannabis is sold openly.

On 8 October 2013, the House of Representatives passed a motion to 
decriminalise possession of small amounts of the drug, a move which 
led to the latest ruling.

The legality of cannabis for general or recreational use varies 
around the world. Possession of cannabis is illegal in most countries 
as a result of the agreement about Indian hemp, also known as 
hashish, in the International Opium Convention of 1925.

However, many countries have decriminalised possession of small 
quantities of cannabis

In the Netherlands, cannabis products are only sold openly in certain 
local "coffeeshops" and possession of up to five grams for personal 
use is permitted.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom