Ganja arrests worry cop
Head of the Constabulary Communication Network, Deputy Superintendent of Police Steve Brown, has expressed grave concern over the number of people who are acquiring criminal records due to them possessing marijuana.
Statistics that were compiled by the Criminal Records Office of the Jamaica Constabulary Force for the period January- July 2013, showed that a total of 6,150 Jamaicans were convicted in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court and were sentenced to serve a total of 1.254 years and/or fines amounting to $37.5 million.
The analysis of the figures from the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court revealed that 71 per cent were convicted for drug-related offences.
"A number of these persons are convicted for drug-related offences like the smoking and possession of ganja. That is why we are encouraging people to stay away from certain environments and activities," Brown told The Gleaner.
"When somebody smokes ganja, they often see it as something simple, but if that person gets a conviction then it will impact them negatively as a criminal record affects even their ability to get employed," he added.
Brown also highlighted immigration restrictions as another consequence of the conviction.
Several prominent figures such as Member of Parliament Raymond Pryce and Paul Chang, chair of the Ganja Law Reform Coalition, have been lobbying for the decriminalisation of marijuana.
Pryce, in a motion tabled in the House of Representatives in January, said members should consider the matter of decriminalisation a human-rights issue.
Pryce said criminal records haunt thousands of Jamaicans and their families and suggested that the Parliament debate the practicality of a prescribed amount of marijuana at which or below which there would be no criminal prosecution for the possession for personal use.