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Ganja and the Supreme Court

Published:Wednesday | December 5, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Dennie Quill, Columnist

The changing legal complexion of ganja in the United States has piqued my interest in recent weeks, and I have used this space to discuss the possible future of the weed.

The fact is, ganja is widely grown in the United States to supply the 17 states where medical marijuana is permitted, and now two states have voted to make it available for recreational use. But marijuana remains illegal in Jamaica - sort of.

To my great surprise, I have discovered that there is one place in this island paradise of ours that it is perfectly okay to smoke ganja, and this is the Supreme Court of Jamaica. Seriously! I had to do some business there recently, and as I entered the building, I was hit by the pungent smell of weed.

It was easy to determine that the smell did not emanate from the environs of the court but inside the building, and I soon found out that the prisoners were the ones smoking weed.

Back in the day, I can remember persons tiptoeing their way around the Supreme Court and speaking in hushed tones. To many, it was hallowed ground.

An independent observer could reasonably conclude that today there is sheer contempt for the highest court in the land. How ridiculous is it that the Ministry of Health is seeking to impose a ban on smoking in all public buildings, yet it is allowed to happen in the Supreme Court, of all places.

But wait, there is a reason, I am told. This is it. Rowdy prisoners can become extremely boisterous and could disturb the proceedings in court, so they are allowed to smoke, because as the narcotic takes effect, they are subdued and become calm.

Apparently, Her Majesty's judges, the director of public prosecutions, attorneys, police and all officers of the court have embraced this rationale. How else can one explain the fact that this flagrant disregard for the rule of law can be allowed to happen day after day?

Abdicated duty

I submit that successive ministers of justice, attorneys general, chief justices and high-ranking officers of the court have simply abdicated their primary duty as citizens of this country by allowing this practice to flourish beneath their noses. What moral authority is there to arrest an individual for smoking a spliff anywhere in Jamaica?

This raises some serious questions about corruption. Are we to believe that the prisoners arrive from their respective jails with their spliffs? And if they have spliffs which were not detected, could they have other contraband like knives and guns?

Or is it that they are supplied with the spliffs when they get to court? If the answer to the latter question is yes, who is the supplier of the weed?

Then there is the matter of lighting implement - either a lighter or matches must be used to light up the spliff. Considering that a lighter could be used to create a conflagration in the court, how are the prisoners able to light up?

Anecdotally, all persons fined or imprisoned for smoking ganja seem to have a case against the State. For on one hand, the law is enforced against some, while others are allowed to break the law with impunity. Something is not right with that picture.

I would like to invite the commissioner of police to make an unannounced visit to the Supreme Court of Jamaica and then tell the country how he intends to tackle this looming crisis in the justice system.

Dennie Quill is a veteran journalist. Email feedback to and