Pubdate: Sat, 07 Feb 2015
Source: Jamaica Observer (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2015 The Jamaica Observer Ltd,
Author: Alphea Saunders


KINGSTON, Jamaica - Senators today poked more holes in the 
legislation now being debated in the upper house to decriminalise ganja.

The Opposition, although agreeing that the law is a good move, are 
not the only ones asking for the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill to 
be tidied up.

Government Senator, KD Knight, said limiting the cultivation of 
marijuana to the Rastafarian community was "unfair", while suggesting 
that allowing the use of ganja for medicinal purposes, would in 
essence make it legal, even though legalising ganja is not the aim of the Bill.

He further said that he was "not comfortable" with the aspect of the 
Bill that provides for the use of a "dangerous drug" for medicinal purposes.

Senator Knight argued that a separate law should be drafted for the 
use of ganja for medicinal purposes. Knight posited that a "medical 
ganja bill' would eliminate ambiguity.

Senator Knight also said critical stakeholders such as the National 
Council on Drug Abuse and the National Road Safety Council should be 
a part of the dialogue on the Bill.

On the other side of the chamber, Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte 
described the legislation as "very, very badly drafted, and incomplete".

She said that "given all of this big talk" about protecting persons 
who smoke a "spliff" from being slapped with a criminal record, the 
legislation must be redrafted as a number of the provisions are too 
ambiguous and will pose a serious challenge for the public and law enforcement.

Another Opposition colleague, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, while 
agreeing that the Bill was "overdue", said she was concerned that one 
burden is being exchanged for another.

She cautioned that the legislation should not be implemented without 
the proper supporting systems in place.

Meanwhile, Opposition Senator Robert Montague said the legislation 
gives the minister too much power to determine who is allowed to 
cultivate and use ganja.

"The minister is setting up himself to be the pope of rastas, not the 
hope," he snapped.

He blasted the proposed Bill as being discriminatory, cumbersome, and 

Senator Montague also noted that not all Jamaicans are in agreement 
with the decriminalisation of ganja, and that the law needs to take 
that into account, and provide an avenue for those voices to be heard.

The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill is being debated Senate.
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