Pubdate: Tue, 07 Oct 2014
Source: Virgin Islands Daily News, The (VI)
Copyright: 2014 The Associated Press
Author: David Mcfadden, the Associated Press
Cited: Drug Policy Alliance,


KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) - According to Jamaica's justice minister,
legislation has been drafted to decriminalize marijuana on the island
where the drug has been pervasive but prohibited for a century.

Mark Golding told reporters that lawmakers should make possession of 2
ounces or less a petty offense before the end of 2014. He also expects
decriminalization for religious purposes to be authorized by then,
allowing adherents of the homegrown Rastafarian spiritual movement to
ritually smoke marijuana, which they consider a "holy herb," without
fear of arrest.

Golding said it will 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
"wellpositioned to be a forerunner" in efforts to research therapeutic
uses of the plant.

As Jamaica advances marijuana decriminalization, the government is
committed to battling drug traffickers, Golding stressed. He said
keeping marijuana away from children, the international black market
and organized crime will be a top priority.

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

Golding said the regulatory framework needed for a medical marijuana
and research industry in Jamaica is still being hashed over. Setting
maximum limits on pot cultivation is not anticipated, he said, but the
government wants to ensure that small farmers "are not excluded and it
does not just become something exclusively for major capital-intensive

Ethan Nadelmann, head of the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance, a
pro-legalization group based in New York, called 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
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