THE GOVERNMENT is to set up a broad-based national commission to review the use of ganja in Jamaica.
The review will focus on whether the illegal herb should be decriminalised for use in specific circumstances and conditions.
In a statement yesterday Prime Minister P. J. Patterson said that all evidence of the herb's potency would be revisited.
"Countries all over the world are being forced to give consideration to the complex but delicate issues of social, economic, cultural and security policies which relate to the issue of ganja," he said. "Jamaica can be no exception."
The commission, whose chairperson is to be announced next week, is aimed at ending the long-standing debate regarding the use of ganja in Jamaica.
The Prime Minister's message comes ahead of this weekend's annual conference of the People's National Party and in the wake of several views being expressed about allowing persons in private premises to possess small quantities of ganja for smoking, and sanctioning the drug for use as a religious sacrament. The leadership of the influential Region 3 of the PNP has been lobbying for the decriminalising of ganja for personal use.
Mr. Patterson said the commission would be in dialogue with the "relevant interest groups" and have public consultations, review documented evidence and scientific opinions about the medicinal value. Also, it would recommend legislative changes as well as deliberate the use of the drug on health and patterns of social behaviour, the implications for the economy, effects on crime and security and how changes could affect existing obligations to international treaties.
The commission should finalise its report within nine months and until a decision is reached, all existing laws on the use of ganja remain intact, he said.