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Musicians react to ganja law amendments

Published:Sunday | October 12, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The Government's recent decision to relax laws surrounding the decriminalisation of marijuana has gone down well with most Jamaicans, including many in the music industry.

For decades, many entertainers were plagued by laws surrounding the issue, which resulted in many of them being arrested and charged for possession of marijuana, sometimes for nothing more than a mere spliff. These charges, which would be added to their criminal records, have haunted many of Jamaica's entertainers for years. Some have been denied visas because of their records, negatively impacting their careers.

Now, with the amendments to the new bill, many can breathe a sigh of relief, as persons convicted for minor offences will have their records expunged. This would mean that entertainers would now have a clean slate to work with, and many have welcomed this change.

Long-awaited decision

Reggae artiste Luciano, who has long been an advocate for the decriminalisation of the substance, says it is a good move by the Government. "It is a wise, long-awaited decision and I'm happy with it," he said. "I have never considered it (marijuana) a drug, so it is long overdue and as an advocate, I welcome this decision." Keen to point out that he would not be greedy with the decision to make two or less ounces of marijuana a petty offence, the artiste offered his reactions to the clean slate that those affected could now look forward to. "I am happy for it because many artistes have been affected by minor weed charges, and to have those charges removed could open more doors for them."

President of the Jamaica Federation of Music, Desmond 'Desi' Young, also expressed joy at the changes, saying it could mark a positive move for Jamaica. "The general population will welcome these changes," he said. "Many musicians too, (some with international acclaim) have been in a position in the past where they were negatively impacted by ganja charges and will definitely stand to benefit from these new provisions."

Among the artistes who have been charged with possession of marijuana are Bounty Killer, Jah Cure, Anthony B, Sizzla, Toots Hibbert and Elephant Man.