Two ounces not enough
Bunny Wailer says Gov't should review ganja law, license small farmers
Shereita Grizzle, Sunday Gleaner Writer
In June of this year, Justice Minister Mark Golding told Parliament that by the end of September, paperwork surrounding the decriminalisation of marijuana would be drafted, allowing amendments to the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Act and on September 30, the Government made good on its promise.
Under the amended bill, persons convicted for minor offences will now be able to have their records expunged. This would result in the conviction being removed from one's criminal record after a specific period of time has elapsed. The bill also makes provision for convictions of certain minor ganja-related offences to be expunged, and where there is a conviction for a minor offence for the possession of ganja or for smoking ganja, it would not be entered on the offender's criminal record.
With the new changes, many entertainers who had their careers affected by ganja charges would now get a clean slate, which could lead to more career opportunities, especially as it relates to obtaining visas for gigs overseas.
GANJA LAW AMENDED
In his address, Golding also revealed that another bill allowing persons to possess small quantities of marijuana had already been drafted. He said the new bill will make possession of two ounces or less of the substance a petty offence before the end of 2014. The bill will also make provisions for religious groups to use the drug, allowing Rastafarians to ritually smoke marijuana - which they consider a holy herb - without fear of arrest.
Veteran entertainer Bunny Wailer, a long-time advocate for the legalisation of marijuana, believes that though the passing of the bill is a step in the right direction, the Government can do more. He said the two ounces stipulated by Parliament would not be enough, and is absurd in some instances.
"Where or who are we to get these two ounces from? Persons who have more than two ounces? So if [it is illegal for] persons to have more than two ounces … what have we achieved?" he questioned.
The entertainer went on to say that the Government should now look into licensing small farmers. That way, he says, everybody benefits.
Wailer also suggested that an amnesty of one pound be considered, before expressing his anxiety on hearing the Government's decision on the laws regarding the religious use of the substance.
"Rastafari sacramental rights is for seven pounds per person, so I am waiting to see what these rights are in the final negotiations," he said.
For members of the Church who believe the Government's recent decisions will do more harm than good, Wailer had this message: "Sugar created slavery, salt is associated with Sodom and Gomorrah, so we can find reasons for everything that we do to be in the wrong direction. The Church must focus on influencing human behaviour to choose and use all substances properly, without taking choice away from them."