Tue | Oct 22, 2019

Pryce demands reparation for US war on drugs - Blames Americans for toxic burnout of crops

Published:Tuesday | January 22, 2019 | 12:17 AM
Raymond Pryce speaks at the BBC World Questions event at the Spanish Court Hotel in Kingston last Tuesday.

Juxtaposing the rallying cry for reparation from Britain for slavery for almost 200 years, climate-change consultant and former senator Raymond Pryce is demanding that the Jamaican State be compensated by the United States for environmental degradation through its war on drugs.

Speaking with The Gleaner at last week’s British Broadcasting Corporation’s World Questions programme at Spanish Court Hotel in St Andrew, Pryce argued that the Jamaica’s farmlands were decimated by the cavalier dispersion of toxic chemicals.

“In the early 1970s, American President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs. Countries like Jamaica became the primary arena for that war. Illicit chemicals banned by the United Nations policies, schedules and treaties were used in the hillsides and forested regions.

“A lot of the environmental degradation now came from that. These chemicals changed the soil texture and the ability to retain water and other nutrients important for agricultural and economic development. We need to pursue environmental reparation from countries like the United States,” he said.

Pryce, who tabled the motion for the decriminalisation of ganja while he was member of parliament for North East St Elizabeth, suggested that money received for environmental reparation should be directed towards climate-change mitigation and adaptation, insisting, “We should not fit ganja into the model that we used with sugar, Blue Mountain coffee and any other failed industry models.”

Edward Seaga, who was prime minister of Jamaica from 1980 to 1989, told The Gleaner yesterday that while his Government was opposed to environmental hazards, he could not quantify the damage to other crops and soil.

Seaga’s once-absolute views on the negativity on ganja have changed somewhat.

“The spray they were using was harmful. We objected to it. [However,] we have always had the position that ganja, as we knew it at that time, was harmful, but we have come to see now a new age of ganja. People have found that it has healing properties. How can you not support something proven to help humans? There is no question about that fact. We would have taken the same position in so far as medical ganja is concerned, but the rest of the plant that is not helpful, we would maintain the same [negative] position we had.”

After years of advocacy, possession of two ounces or less of ganja was decriminalised in 2015, and the framework for the burgeoning medicinal marijuana sector is evolving.

Richard Crawford, a lobbyist of the emerging medicinal ganja industry in Jamaica, told The Gleaner yesterday that damage caused by the war on drugs should not go unnoticed.

“The programme worked to a large extent, but it polluted our fields for a long time and destroyed acres of ganja islandwide. They sprayed them with a toxic element called paraquat. The residue of the spraying affected our coconuts and crops like citrus planted in close proximity to ganja fields. Raymond is correct!”