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JLP's Robinson calls for group to assess ganja law amendments, preparations for tourism sector

Published:Thursday | April 23, 2015 | 2:45 PM
Shahine Robinson

Opposition Spokesperson on Tourism and Cruise Shipping, Shahine Robinson has called on Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeil to pull together a working group to exploit the new provisions of the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act as it relates to the use and cultivation of ganja. 

“I am calling on the Minister to establish a small and efficient working group, inclusive of the Health Ministry, Customs and other critical stakeholders to review and assess the amendments and put in a place of programme of work ultimately aimed at enhancing the benefits to Jamaica,” said Robinson in a release.

She lamented what she has described as the deafening silence and lack of preparation of the tourism sector by Dr McNeill, Parliament having passed the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015 more than two months ago.

Robinson noted that the passage of the bill has given the green light decriminalisation and medical ganja use and likened the Minister’s inaction to that of his failing to prepare the sector for Cuba’s opening up despite repeated pleas for him to do so.

She suggested that the reforms have the potential to bring significant value to Jamaica’s tourism industry, which has long been famous for ganja use by visitors.

According to Robinson, McNeill is several months late in preparing the industry in such a way as to understanding the changes, bringing clarity to how the new regime will actually function and maximise benefits to the Jamaica people and economy.

She said delays in doing may have a haunting effect on Jamaica as other Caribbean islands are now actively looking into reforming their laws.

The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015 allows for tourists to legally purchase two ounces or less of ganja at a time, once they produce a signed voluntary declaration, or any other satisfactory evidence, that the use of ganja is for medical and therapeutic purposes as prescribed or recommended in writing by a medical practitioner entitled to practice in the jurisdiction where the person is ordinarily resident, and is in possession of a valid permit issued by the Minister of Health along with the payment of a prescribed fee.

Robinson pointed to what she characterised as the serious lack of clarity on the part of tourists, stakeholders and other players, despite the amendments and pointed to likely confusion over coming weeks and months that could land many people in trouble.