Pubdate: Thu, 24 Jun 1999
Source: CNN (US)
Copyright: 1999 Cable News Network, Inc. A Time Warner Company


KINGSTON, Jamaica - Jamaica's justice minister is encouraging
hemp growers to fill their fields to help the economy, acknowledging
that marijuana's less-potent cousin can be used to make paper,
clothes, rope and other items.

"If, as the potential growers say, the THC content of hemp is so low
that it could not be used as a narcotic drug, then there is no law
forbidding it being grown," national security and justice minister
K.D. Knight said Wednesday in Parliament. "Go ahead and produce acres
of hemp. The economy needs this."

THC, the chemical that gives marijuana psychoactive qualities, is
present in hemp also, but at one-tenth the strength, according to a
1985 United Nations study. The study showed that marijuana has an
average THC content of 5 percent, compared to 0.4 percent for hemp.

But Knight warned that the government was not allowing the cultivation
of marijuana.

"I am told that (hemp) grows best on level plots of land so I would
not expect to see little plots of it clandestinely growing in hilly
terrain," Knight said.

Marijuana proponents say they will begin renewed efforts to cultivate
their product, too.

The National Alliance for the Legalization of Ganja, as marijuana is
called in much of the Caribbean, says it will begin lobbying in August
for a referendum in which voters would decide whether marijuana should
be legal. The group believes the drug's export, sale and medicinal use
could help the economy.

Knight said the government allows the use of marijuana by "any bona
fide researcher, interested in or capable of using ganja to develop
medicines for the benefit of mankind," as long as the government
grants permission first.
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