Jamaica moves closer to decriminalising ganja

MARIJUANA advocates in Jamaica are on a high after Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives Phillip Paulwell signalled that the use of marijuana in specific quantities is on the Parliamentary agenda for decriminalisation in the upcoming legislative year.

Cannabis Leaf
Cannabis Leaf
However, in casting aside any notion of an impending legalisation of the weed, Paulwell, also the minister of science, technology, energy and mining, told The Gleaner he met last week with the Cannabis Commercial and Medicinal Research Taskforce (CCMRT) and conveyed his expectations of a clearer day for the ganja stakeholders.

Paulwell said: “It is my view that decriminalisation of the weed will become a reality this (calendar) year, arising from the Parliamentary debate and the support by the majority of the members, I believe it will be approved this year.” The legislative year starts on April 1 and ends March 31, 2015.

But as it relates to decriminalisation, Paulwell’s comment appeared to run counter to that of his Cabinet colleague, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister A.J. Nicholson.

Nicholson said that the attitude of larger western nations on decriminalisation remains foggy at best. “There is no consideration at this time about changing the treaties, but there are still some concerns about how some western countries would view our move towards decriminalise, de-penalise or anything like that,” he said recently.

But in relation to the more significant matter of legalisation, like Nicholson, Paulwell stressed he was talking decriminalising not legalising the weed. However, he contended that it is within Jamaica’s supreme rights to decriminalise marijuana. “We are not speaking about legalisation, we are speaking about decriminalisation and I think it is in our remit and within our sovereignty, based on what is happening in the United States to do so in relation to decriminalisation …; legalisation is another matter,” he stressed.

Paulwell was supported by member of the CCMRT, Delano Seiveright, who said this position represents a major game change in ongoing discourse on ganja law reform. “We have seen where many places north and south of Jamaica have been relaxing their laws as they clearly see the tremendous advantages,” he said.

“Jamaica of all places should move to make changes sooner rather than later,” said Seiveright. “The people stand to gain from multiple standpoints, especially from the human-rights, cultural, medicinal research, tourism, taxation, agricultural and broad economic angles.