Jamaica to UN: Let’s make a joint effort

Kamina Johnson-Smith
Kamina Johnson-Smith

NEW YORK CITY – Jamaica not only defended its decision to decriminalize small quantities of marijuana at the United Nations but also called on the UN to review the classification of cannabis as a dangerous drug with no medical use.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Kamina Johnson-Smith told a General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drug policy that in developing drug policies, “one size does not fit all.”

She said that while it will adhere to its obligations under the Drug Control Convention, Jamaica maintains that countries should be allowed the flexibility to craft appropriate laws and policies that take into account other important elements, such as different cultural perspectives and practices, as well as consideration of the health, well-being, human rights, human development and security of citizens.

Johnson-Smith pointed out, for example, that cannabis has been traditionally used as a folk medicine, as well as a religious sacrament by Jamaica’s indigenous faith, Rastafari, and stressed that “such specific uses are not associated with illicit, large-scale cultivation for trade.

“We contend that the classification of cannabis under the Single Convention is an anomaly and that the medical value of a substance must be determined by science and evidence-based analysis, above other considerations,” Johnson-Smith said to some applause, referring to the existing classification that dates back to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

The Jamaica government amended the Dangerous Drugs Act last year to give tickets for possession of less than two ounces of cannabis, instead of making it a felony offence and create a legal regime governing the sacramental use of marijuana by Rastafarians.

It also established provisions for the medical, scientific and therapeutic uses of the plant, and set up a Cannabis Licensing Authority to regulate and monitor the allowed uses of the substance.

The Canadian government is promising to bring in legislation legalizing marijuana with some stipulations. Currently the drug is in a legal limbo in Canada due to a Supreme Court ruling.