Sun | Mar 24, 2019

RJRGLEANER Town Hall Meeting | Bust the Ganja treaty! - Opposition spokesman says Ja can ditch Int'l treaties to light up loafing weed industry

Published:Saturday | November 3, 2018 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Host of the RJRGLEANER Town Hall Meeting on the ganja industry Dionne Jackson Miller (left) with panellists (from second left) Hyacinth Lightbourne, chairman of the Cannabis Licensing Authority; Maurice Ellis, president of the Ganja Growers Association; David Noel, president and chief executive officer of Scotiabank Jamaica; and Dr K’adamawe K’nife. The event was hosted at the Karl Hendrickson Auditorium at Jamaica College in St Andrew on Thursday night.
Participants at the RJRGLEANER Town Hall Meeting on the ganja industry, hosted at the Karl Hendrickson Auditorium at Jamaica College in St Andrew on Thursday night.
Opposition Spokesman on Finance Mark Golding.
Hyacinth Lightbourne, chairman of the Cannabis Licensing Authority.
Cyclone Melak Selassie paraded the room with his message during the RJRGLEANER Town Hall Meeting.
Iyah Awwanuyah from the Rastafarian community voices his concerns about Jamaica's potential ganja industry.
Diane Edwards, president of JAMPRO, weighs in on the discussion.
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Opposition spokesman on Finance Mark Golding says that Jamaica has the option of withdrawing from some international treaties and aligning itself with countries that are more like-minded in order to fully legalise marijuana.

He made the suggestion following queries from some impatient business interests, who continue to question the country's delay in fully maximising on the emerging ganja industry, at Thursday evening's RJRGLEANER Town Hall Meeting on ganja.

Frustrated stakeholders who participated in the forum, hosted at the Karl Hendrickson Auditorium at Jamaica College in St Andrew, believe that the Government has not been creative and forceful enough in cashing in on the potential multibillion-dollar cannabis industry. This has led some to believe that the 'ganja train' is about to leave Jamaica behind.

Participants peppered the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) with questions, some querying its purpose in the industry.

Chairman of the CLA Hyacinth Lightbourne responded that international obligations mandate that a specific body be established to monitor entities dealing in the weed.

She also noted that "the 1961 Narcotics Convention, to which Jamaica is a signatory, requires that there is a single authority designated for the administration".

Lightbourne said that the treaty makes it clear that the signatories can only deal in ganja in a "medical, scientific, and therapeutic manner".

"So that is an issue for lawmakers. But what they have done is look to the treaty, to which we are currently a signatory, and sought to use as much as we possibly could in order to get us on the ganja train," the CLA chairman added.

But Golding, who was justice minister at the time Jamaica decriminalised two ounces of marijuana in 2015, reasoned that with Canada making major changes to allow recreational use, Jamaica could seek to free its hands of some of its obligations.

"If we want to fully legalise, we would have to withdraw from the treaty - and that's an option. The Vienna Law of Treaties provides, for example, where groups of countries that are like-minded create their own treaties around the subject. I think we should be exploring, talking to Canada, to Uruguay, and other states that may have a more liberal regime than what this 1961 convention allows," Golding stated.

He did not mention if there were any sanctions or negative repercussions that could arise from withdrawing from these treaties.

The opposition spokesman said that he was disappointed that some important aspects of the ganja reform process had slowed since he left office as minister of justice after the February 2016 general election.

In particular, Golding said that it was "a pity" that reforms geared at the Rastafarian community had been abandoned.

Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw recently expressed optimism about Jamaica's earning potential from ganja in light of Canada's legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.

"We can't continue to flirt with cannabis because cannabis

has now conclusively been demonstrated to be a drug-related plant that is medicinal and has properties that are incredible," the minister said.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com