Not thinking things through
When you are in a mad rush to do something, you tend not to think things through carefully.
The rushed-through Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act (popularly called the Ganja Bill) has not been carefully thought through. I wish we had a law requiring full disclosure of political donations.
When the new law comes into effect, Jamaicans will be able to cultivate up to five marijuana plants on a single premises without facing arrest. Does this mean that if I own five premises, I can legally cultivate 25 ganja plants in all? Suppose I don't own land: can I ask 25 of my friends to each cultivate five ganja plants on their land - 125 in all - on my behalf? Does not this loophole-filled law open the door to a free-for-all?
According to the new law, being caught in possession of up to 2oz of marijuana will become a petty offence, which may result only in a ticket. Being caught in possession of 2.5oz can still result in arrest and a criminal record upon conviction. Suppose I want to smoke ganja: How will I get my supply? Well, I could grow my own (see previous paragraph). Otherwise, I will have to buy from someone else.
How would this work? Well, I could go to his farm gate and buy my 2oz from his private farm. I guess there would be no problem there. Or I could call him and ask him to bring me 2oz; if my supplier was arrested on the way to me, the most he could get is a ticket. But suppose five persons had ordered? Then my supplier would have as much as 10oz in his possession; if he were caught, he could be arrested and get a criminal record upon conviction.
What about Reggae Splashfest? Must each patron bring his own sensimillia, or will he be able to buy on spot? Possibly as many as 1,000 persons may wish to light up. Their sensi suppliers will have in their possession more than 2oz at a time, and so will be liable for arrest and a criminal record if convicted.
But I am sure that is a risk they are prepared to take; they take it now, and have ways of avoiding arrest. The new ganja bill favours the ganja dealers, not because it insulates them from arrest (which it does not), but because it removes the risk of arrest from their customers, and, therefore, expands their retail market. If I were a ganja dealer, I would be prepared to make a contribution to the party in power to get such a law passed.
This rushed, loophole-filled ganja bill has not been carefully thought through, otherwise they would have been able to avoid some of the provisions that make the Government look complicit in the ganja trade.
A photograph of Phillip Paulwell, minister of mining, in last Monday's Jamaica Observer has the caption, 'Paulwell remains committed to the sustainable exploitation of Jamaica's mineral resources.' The first sentence in the article reads: "Jamaica's desire to gain maximum advantage from the sustainable exploitation of its mineral resources remains a critical policy objective of the Government of Jamaica." Both the caption and the sentence contain an oxymoron. There is no such thing as sustainable mineral exploitation; such a thing is impossible. Think it through!
You can have 'sustainable fisheries', where the number of fish caught each year is equal to or fewer than the number of fish that grow to maturity; therefore, you can continue to fish in perpetuity - sustainably. If you catch more fish each year than grow to maturity, your fish stock will decline, and your fisheries are unsustainable.
The same is true for bird-shooting, which can be sustainable or unsustainable depending on the number of birds which grow to maturity each year and the number killed.
Bauxite is formed over millions of years by the weathering of soil, but it takes only a few hours to remove with front-end loaders and trucks. Most of the bauxite in Jamaica has already been removed and shipped overseas; in a few decades it will be all gone. Therefore, there can be no such thing as sustainable mineral exploitation.
Politicians will run up their mouths - especially exuberant ones - but I would have expected Allan Brooks, author of the Observer article, who describes himself as "a veteran journalist, communications consultant and current communications specialist at the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining", to better inform himself before he puts pen to paper.
- Peter Espeut is a sociologist and environmentalist.
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