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Remove the ganja stigma

Published:Monday | September 2, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Paul Chang, Chairman of the Ganja Law Reform Coalition (GLRC) in Jamaica, has expressed disappointment over the image that has been painted of the marijuana over the years, which according to him, has resulted in Jamaica missing opportunities.

"Over the years, there has been this false science and lie associated with ganja and that has created a huge problem. We have painted the wrong image and so it's (ganja) linked with a lot of shame and class," Chang told a Gleaner's Editor's Forum on Wednesday.

"We have a misconception because of the demonisation that the substance has been associated with and so we keep missing the opportunities. This (ganja) is a multibillion-dollar industry," he declared.

Pointing to countries such as the United States and Canada which have changed their perception of the substance, he has made an appeal for Jamaica to get on board.

"It has changed in America and continues to be transformed rapidly in terms of public opinion, and finally, science is catching up with the falsehood of propaganda," he said.

"(Jamaica is) still not quite there yet. There is still work to do. We have various stakeholders coming on board to start the campaign and to do a whole transformation because ganja is still associated with rastafari, criminals and idleness," he asserted.

Similarly, Miguel Lorne, Attorney-at-law and an advocate for the decriminalisation of ganja in Jamaica, says Rastafarians continue to encounter discrimination as a result of ganja usage.

"Its a very touchy issue that the governments are afraid to touch. With regards to Rastafari, it's not just a frivolous issue of wanting an excuse to smoke," he declared.

"Many Rastafarians have been killed, in fact, the whole ganja issue has brought into focus that hostility between rastas and the police, not just in Jamaica but in several other parts of the world," Lorne lamented.

He called, therefore, for a change in the mindset of Jamaicans saying, "It's integral that the perception is changed.

"A lot of our young men are just scraped off the corners and continue to face unfair treatment because once you use the substance, it is believed you are the same one who fire the guns and we are here advocating for a change," Lorne declared.