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Foreign minister urges ganja vigilance by bankers

Published:Wednesday | October 14, 2015 | 10:00 AMNeville Graham
Senator A.J. Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.

Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Senator A.J. Nicholson is calling for vigilance on the part of financial institutions, surrounding the emerging medical marijuana sector, to stay within the ambit of the drug and anti-money laundering laws.

"Financial institutions must adapt their rules and procedures to be consistent with the amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act. In doing so, they must continue to be vigilant to ensure that funds which pass through their institutions are acquired only through regulated trade in cannabis and cannabis-related products," Senator Nicholson warned.

He said there is a danger that funds from the trade of unregulated cannabis and related products may find their way into the legitimate banking system.

Addressing the fourth annual Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Financing of Terrorism Conference on Monday, the foreign minister said recent amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act must be seen within the context of Jamaica's international obligations under

various treaties.

He argued that the provisions under the 1961 Single Convention, reinforced by the 1988 United Nations Convention against the illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, require that Jamaica should impose criminal sanctions for ganja possession.

lawful industry

He emphasised that Jamaica was taking advantage of certain provisions in decriminalising possession of small amounts of marijuana under specified circumstances, but also warned that with the potential profits that will come from legitimate activity, deposit-taking institutions need to take care that the business they do with marijuana traders toes the line laid down in the ganja law.

"Human existence has taught us that with opportunity comes risk. With the creation of a lawful industry, with the potential to generate billions of dollars, financial institutions must assist the Government in its fight to ensure that criminal elements do not succeed in efforts to launder illicit funds, or profit from the gains of their criminal activities," said the senator.

Nicholson asked the bankers and financial advisers assembled at the New Kingston conference to be mindful of the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act, and to recognise their role in ensuring that the financial system is kept safe, especially since the country is

constantly reviewed by external bodies such as the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, with the last mutual evaluation exercise conducted in June.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com