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No arrest for two ounces of ganja - starting tomorrow

Published:Tuesday | April 14, 2015 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell

BEGINNING TOMORROW, persons found with two ounces or less of marijuana will no longer be subject to arrest or detention by the police but instead could be issued a ticket for $500 payable within a 30-day period at any revenue centre.

On Wednesday, April 15, Justice Minister Mark Golding is expected to bring the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015 into operation by a notice published in the gazette.

This follows the governor general's assent to the far-reaching piece of legislation.

"This is a landmark piece of legislation that is long overdue," declared Senator Golding, who noted that "Jamaica is approaching these reforms in a responsible manner and in keeping with our international obligations".

He said the benefits of these reforms would be significant and the possible negative implications would, for the first time, be mitigated by a public education campaign to discourage ganja use by adolescents, persons with mental disorders, pregnant women and other vulnerable groups.

A person who is ticketed for smoking ganja in public or for possession of two ounces or less of marijuana and fails to pay the ticket will be required to attend a Petty Sessions Court and may be ordered to do community service or pay a fine of $2,000.

failure to pay

The Ministry of Justice has made it clear that a conviction for failing to pay a ticket will be recorded on the offender's criminal record.

In addition, a person who is found in possession of two ounces or less who is under the age of 18 years or who is 18 years or older and appears to the police to be dependent on ganja will be referred to the National Council on Drug Abuse for counselling. The offender is also required to pay the ticket.

With the implementation of the so-called ganja law, the smoking of ganja will be legally permitted in places that are licensed for the smoking of ganja for medical or therapeutic purposes.

The new law will also permit adherents of the Rastafarian faith to smoke ganja for sacramental purposes in locations registered as places of Rastafarian worship.

The justice ministry has made it clear that the possession of more than two ounces of ganja remains a criminal offence and offenders can be arrested, charged, tried in court and, if found guilty, sentenced to a fine, or to imprisonment, or both. The conviction will also be recorded on that person's criminal record.

The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015 was passed by both Houses of Parliament in February this year.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com