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Justify the weed - Justice minister to make constitutional case for revising ganja law

Published:Saturday | October 26, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Senator Mark Golding

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

WITH JAMAICA'S Ministry of Justice positioning itself to seek approval from Cabinet for the decriminalisation of marijuana, government Senator Mark Golding said the country is to advance constitutional justification to its international partners for the revision of the law.

Golding, the country's justice minister, said his ministry is giving active consideration to reforming the law relating to ganja in Jamaica.

Responding to questions posed in the Senate by Robert Montague yesterday, Golding said the revised law would permit the possession of small amounts of ganja, about two ounces, for recreational use.

However, the Attorney General's Department provided the justice ministry with a legal opinion indicating that Jamaica would have to advance constitutional justification to its international partners for the decriminalisation of marijuana.

PARTY TO TREATIES

Golding said Jamaica is a party to at least two international treaties which criminalise certain forms of conduct, such as the production, cultivation, sale, and distribution of any narcotic drug or substance.

"It is being considered whether such justification may be made based on the right of freedom of religion and the right to have respect for and protection of private life and privacy of the home," Golding said.

The United Nations Single Convention of 1961 - one of the treaties to which Jamaica has signed - requires parties to limit exclusively to medical and scientific purposes, the production, manufacture, export, import, distribution of, trade in, use and possession of drugs.

HOUSE SPLIT ON ISSUE

Earlier this month, the House of
Representatives gave the nod to a private member's motion calling for
the decriminalisation of ganja, following weeks of rigorous debate,
which saw members on the government side split on the
issue.

North East St Elizabeth Member of Parliament
Raymond Pryce, had moved a motion in the House saying the
decriminalisation of marijuana was 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, below which there
would be no criminal prosecution for the possession for personal
use.

In the Senate yesterday, Golding said his
ministry is considering to permit the use of ganja for medicinal use and
to make it legal for persons to smoke ganja in private
places.

"These considerations do not yet represent
government policy as they have not been considered by Cabinet," the
minister said.

He told the Senate that careful
considerations were being given to the implication of the reform,
including the Government's international
obligations.

In the meantime, opposition Senator
Alexander Williams, in his contribution to the State of the Nation
Debate, said Jamaica was missing out on a multibillion-dollar medical
marijuana market. In lending support to the call for decriminalisation
of marijuana, Williams said Jamaica would have a natural advantage in
the industry.