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Ganja reform may not be silver bullet, says Obama

Published:Friday | April 10, 2015 | 4:00 AM

The controversial marijuana issue was one of many hot-button topics United States President Barack Obama spoke on yesterday during a youth town hall forum held in the Assembly Hall at the University of the West Indies (UWI).

Arriving at the hall to a thunderous uproar at 2:55 p.m., Obama showed how infectious the Jamaican culture can be, as after just a few hours into his first visit to the island, he was quite 'Jamaicanised' and almost fluent in the island's patois dialect.

"Greetings, massive! Wha a gwaan, Jamaica? Big up, UWI!" he exclaimed after bursting on stage, receiving deafening laughter and applause.

"I have been making myself at home. It is great to be in beautiful Jamaica . I just like the vibe here. I feel right at home and grateful for the warm Jamaican hospitality."

After addressing the gathering for about 15 minutes, he opened the floor to question and answers, as he was determined to engage the young leaders of Jamaica and CARICOM in an interactive session for the just over an hour he spent with them.

Of course, he was questioned on his views on the legalisation and decriminalisation of marijuana and the US's policy on the issue.

But he cautioned that legalising ganja was not a "silver bullet" for solving problems associated with the drug, noting that there are serious considerations which must be given to such a move.

 

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He added that although there appears to be many positive outcomes which could result from decriminalisation, a conversation must be held on possible repercussions, including its impact on the illicit drug trade, and even warning that if legalised, a consideration must be given that big companies could very well take over and squeeze out the small man.

He said policies must first be developed to decrease the flow of illegal drugs and guns across the region.

Jamaica recently passed a law to decriminalise the possession and cultivation of small quantities of ganja.

The president promised that once he leaves office, he hopes to island hop in the Caribbean.

anastasia.cunningham@gleanerjm.com