Pubdate: Thu, 29 Jan 2015
Source: Jamaica Observer (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2015 The Jamaica Observer Ltd,
Author: Arlene Martin-Wilkins


US Not Comfortable With Jamaica's Push to Decriminalise Weed

WASHINGTON, DC, USA - The United States Government has signalled some
discomfort with Jamaica's move to decriminalise marijuana for specific

According to assistant secretary of the Bureau of International
Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), William R Brownfield,
there is a possibility that the move could increase inflows of
marijuana from Jamaica that now accounts for 80 per cent of ganja
illegally smuggled into that country.

Brownfield said that, while the US must be tolerant of national
policies to combat the illicit trade of ganja, Jamaica must be mindful
of international drug treaties to which it is a signatory.

Brownfield was responding to a question concerning last Friday's
tabling of the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act, 2015 in the Jamaican
Senate, which seeks to, among other things, decriminalise ganja for
medicinal, religious, and personal uses. With the amendments, the
possession of small quantities of ganja, amounting to two ounces or
less, will become a non-arrestable offence. The Bill also seeks to
reform the monetary penalties laid down by the Act.

"...With or without the legalisation of ganja, the decriminalisation
of ganja... the importation of ganja into the US remains against the
law and the issue then is how much impact will legalisation or
decriminalisation have on that. And, I can assure you that, from the
US side, we will continue to pursue maximum efforts to prevent any
import in the United States and we will request and expect complete
co-operation from law enforcement authorities of the Government of
Jamaica in eliminating this sort of trafficking," Brownfield told
journalists Tuesday.

Jamaica has largely been viewed by the US as a hub for the cultivation
of ganja and a popular transit route for drugs originating in South
America -- a point that was emphasised strongly by Brownfield during a
meeting at the State Department in Washington, DC.

Brownfield cited extensively the three drug-related international
treaties of 1961, 1971, and 1988 that codify internationally
acceptable control measures to prevent the trafficking of narcotics
while ensuring their availability for scientific and medicinal purposes.

"Jamaica like all... countries of the world does have to address
[their concerns], within their own realities, but at the same time
accept that they have ratified and, therefore, have a legal obligation
to abide by the terms of the three international drug conventions,"
Brownfield said, even as he acknowledged that the posture of the US
has somewhat changed with the legalisation of ganja in the federal
district of Washington, and the states of Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska.

"I would not necessarily walk down the same road that the governments
of the states of Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska have elected
to do. I would not necessarily walk down the same road that some in
the Government and Parliament of Jamaica are choosing to walk. That
said, my position was quite clearly stated in the beginning; we must
have tolerance and accept that different countries will address their
drug issues in different ways so long as they are committed to the
fundamental purposes of the three international conventions and that
is to reduce the damage, to reduce the harm and eventually to reduce
the abuse of these products, including cannabis, or marijuana, or
ganja to the citizens of the world," Brownfield emphasised, pointing
out that the conventions have some degree of flexibility as to how
countries address their domestic drug issues.

Jamaica, he said, finds itself in a peculiar position, having to deal
with the problem of ganja cultivation as well as being a transit route.

"Other Caribbean states also produce some form of cannabis; Jamaica
has greater name recognition and greater reputation, I suppose, for
the quality of its product as well as the quantity of its product. So
[Jamaica], in a sense, has a more unique set of problems and
challenges than do most other Caribbean states in that most of the
other states of the region are dealing with the impact of trafficking,
external forces who move their products through their nation or their
maritime or airspace en route to market in a third country...," he

"Jamaica deals with another set of problems as well... Some very
competent, very talented, very skilled agricultural experts in Jamaica
also produce a very high-quality cannabis, which is used both for
domestic consumption and there the opportunity presents itself for
exports to other markets as well, so Jamaica has to deal with both
problems in that regard. [Jamaica has] to deal with one set of
problems in terms of being a producer nation... and it has to deal
with the impact of being a transit nation as well," Brownfield added.

Jamaica's Senate will tomorrow begin debate on the ganja reform Bill,
which seeks to amend the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1948. The last
amendment to that Act took place in 1987.
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