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The illicit drug trade and Jamaica
published: Friday | March 28, 2003


Illicit drugs provide short-term gains for a few, but long-term losses for many. - File

(The illegal drug trade in Jamaica in 2002 is the subject of comment in the Report of the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), a United Nations publication, and in the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2003, published by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, US Department of State.

INCB is an independent and quasi-judicial control organ established by treaty, for monitoring the implementation of international drug control treaties. Its 13 members are elected by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. The following are some highlights of the INCB Report which were compiled by Lloyd Williams, Senior Associate Editor:)

THE UNITED Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has expressed concern at efforts in Jamaica to decriminalise the personal use of ganja here.

According to the INCB report for 2002, trafficking in cannabis (ganja) in the Caribbean has declined over the last two decades. It cites the example of Belize and Jamaica where, it said, the total area under cannabis cultivation in 1980 was estimated to be five times the area currently under cannabis cultivation.

Stating that the reduction had been achieved through intensive eradication campaigns, INCB commented: "Despite those efforts, Jamaica continues to be an important source of supply for illicit markets in North America and, to some extent, the Eastern Caribbean; it also constitutes the main illicit market for cannabis in the Caribbean.

"The Board therefore notes with concern the attempts to decriminalise the personal use of cannabis in Jamaica and in a number of other Caribbean countries."

SOCIAL PROBLEM

This is a reference to the Report of the National Commis-sion on Ganja, which in August 2001, recommended, among other things, that:

"The relevant laws be amended so that ganja be decriminalised for the private, personal use of small quantities by adults."

The INCB points out that the world drug problem was often seen primarily as a social problem, arguing that that was understandable, as the insidious long-term effects of chronic drug abuse and its impact on the drug abuser, the family, the community and the society were obvious. Stating that there were other aspects of the drug problem that were common throughout the world, it reviewed the economic consequences of illicit crop cultivation and the illicit drug trade.

On the issue of illicit drugs and economic development, INCB concluded that drug control efforts should take account of the following:

  • Illicit drugs provide short-term gains for a few, but long-term losses for many.
  • The drug problem is to be considered in the overall economic and development context of a country;

NOT FEASIBLE

  • There are well-established multilateral mechanisms for dealing with both the drug problem and the development problem, and the two mechanisms have to be better integrated as long-term economic development in a country is not feasible without an effective drug control system;
  • In countries with high unemployment, illicit drug production and trafficking provide considerable employment opportunities but jeopardise the development of human capital;
  • Small farmers derive, in the short term, economic benefits from illicit drug crop cultivation, but the sums of these benefits is less than one per cent of the turnover from the world's illicit drug trade;
  • Ninety-nine per cent of the value-added in the global illicit drug trade is generated by trafficking at the national and international levels;
  • The bulk of the profits from the illicit drug trade are made in developed countries; however the economic impact of the drug problem is felt more in developing countries, where the value of the illicit trade represents a larger proportion of the economy than in developed countries;

FIREARMS

  • There is generally a negative correlation between illicit drug production and the economic growth of a country;
  • The illicit drug production and the related economic activities compromise long-term economic development because of their destabilising effects on the state, the economic and civil society.
  • Drug trafficking in the Caribbean and South America continues to be linked with trafficking in firearms and to be facilitated by corruption. Illicit drugs and arms are sometimes used as interchangeable commodities. Most of the firearms come from countries such as El Salvador and Nicaragua, where civil conflicts have ended, resulting in large caches of firearms, and are transported to guerrilla insurgency groups in countries in South America, mainly Colombia.
  • The emergence of a drug economy can result in the destabilisation of the state, the political system, the economy and civil society. The destabilisation of the political system relates to the ability of the illicit drug industry to finance electoral campaigns and corruption, as well as insurgency, terrorism and organised crime. Destabilisation of the economy takes on various forms:

EXCHANGE RATE

a) It undermines macroeconomic decisions to counter the flow of illicit profits, thus creating high interest rates and crowding out legitimate investment;

b) It brings about an overvalued exchange rate as a result of the inflow of illicit profits, diminishing legitimate exports;

c) It promotes illegal business and unfair competition, including obstacles put on legitimate business;

d) It encourages conspicuous consumption at the expense of long-term investment;

e) It encourages investment in non-productive sectors, and,

f) It exacerbates unequal income distribution.

  • The illicit drug industry can destabilise not only the state and the economy but civil society as well. This can happen as a result of increased levels of crime (gang wars, kidnappings, extortion); the erosion of social capital; compromised rule of law; the corruption of the elite and or the political system; gambling and prostitution; drug abuse: and the loss of community cohesion.
  • The main symptom or manifestation of the destabilisation of civil society is the rising levels of crime, notably violent crime, which has a strong impact on consumption patterns (such as the need to pay for security services); and on individual freedom (notably freedom of movement). Drug-related crime includes acquisitive crime, gang wars, violence in public spaces, extortion and kidnapping.

SUSTAINABLE

  • Legalisation: "The truth is that there are no safe ways to abuse drugs".
  • Progress has been made in recent years in most countries in the development and adoption of more appropriate drug control legislation and the establishment of national and subregional institutions and co-operation mechanisms.

INCB points out that to be sustainable and to ensure the implementation of the legislation, those officials need appropriate funding from sources within and outside of Central America and the Caribbean. It called on Canada, the United States, and countries in Europe, as the main destinations of the illicit drug shipments, not to reduce their drug control assistance in favour of measures against terrorism, but to look for new ways to combine both.

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