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Welcome first move on ganja
(Jamaica Observer, February 27, 2004)
The parliamentary committee that was given the job of reviewing the report of the National Commission on Ganja has recommended the acceptance of its proposal that the personal use of small amounts of marijuana be decriminalised. . . . This matter will now go the full House for debate and most likely a conscience vote before there is any amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act, to reflect this change. . . . there were, and are, many who warned against this limited measure of removing the use of small amounts of ganja in private as a criminal offence. For some the issue is moral, but we suspect that for most the greater concern is for the possibility of international repercussions, especially from the United States, if it is perceived that Jamaica has "gone soft" on drugs. . . . The fact, though, is that to maintain the laws on ganja use as they currently are, would be to keep legislation out of step with popular sentiment and the society's instinct for justice and fair play. . . . The point is that Jamaicans, of all social classes, hardly view marijuana as a "drug" in the way they perceive cocaine or some other narcotic. Small amounts of ganja are culturally acceptable, although most people would, if not morally outraged, would be questioning of the commercial production and export of the drug, especially if such action had the potential to hurt Jamaica. . . . The proposed change in the legislation will, hopefully, address a real imbalance in the application of the law in Jamaica. It is mainly the poor and urban youth who are subject to prosecution and penalties in the legal system for the use of ganja. It is they, who mostly gain criminal records. The police are more likely to be lenient towards middle class youth who, in any event, are more likely to use drugs in the privacy of their homes and beyond the eyes of the law. Which, of course, raises two important issues with regard to the proposed amendment to the ganja law. . . . The first of these has to do with the definition of "small quantities" of ganja for people's private and personal use. There has to be consistency in the application of the law, or you could have the police harassing someone with perhaps a pack of ganja cigarettes as opposed to a single spliff. . . . The matter will have to do with defining smoking in private. The truth is that if this is not carefully handled it could end up victimising the existing victims. Many poor urban youth hardly consider hanging on the street corner in their communities as being an overly public endeavour. Indeed, given the living conditions of many, being on the street is important social space. To put in bluntly, there is hardly anything private and personal about the tenement or a shack on the gully bank. . . . These issues, therefore, have to be seriously considered and dealt with creatively.

posted by Lorenzo 2:44 PM

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