Justice Minister, Senator Mark Golding (centre), outlines details of proposed amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act to legislate the decriminalization of ganja for medicinal, religious and personal/private use, during Thursday’s media briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister. Listening are: Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator Sandrea Falconer (left), and Consultant to the Minister, Dr Eileen Boxhill. JIS Photo
By Douglas McIntosh
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) -- Jamaica’s Cabinet has approved a revision of the Dangerous Drugs Act for the decriminalisation of ganja (marijuana) for medicinal, religious, and private/personal use.
The proposed changes will facilitate ganja being used for therapeutic purposes, as prescribed by a registered practitioner, or for scientific research conducted by an accredited tertiary institution or otherwise approved by the Scientific Research Council (SRC).
The changes will also enable the use of ganja in religious engagements by stakeholders, such as Rastafarians.
Details on the latest development were outlined by Minister of Justice, Senator Mark Golding, during a media briefing on Thursday.
Additionally, the changes will make the possession of small quantities, amounting to two ounces (0.057 kilogrammes) or less, a non-arrestable but ticketable infraction, attracting a fine payable outside of the court, but not resulting in the possessor attaining a criminal record.
Meanwhile, a Bill to amend the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Act that will result in the expunging of existing criminal records for possession of small quantities of, or smoking of ganja, is to be tabled in Parliament shortly by the justice minister.
Golding indicated that the proposed changes have been under consideration for some time. However, he pointed out that the “necessary internal consultations” and “consequential refinements” had to be undertaken before the submission was made to Cabinet in April, for consideration.
He emphasized that proposed changes to the law are not intended to promote or give a stamp of approval to the use of ganja for recreational purposes.
“The objective is to provide a more ‘enlightened’ approach to dealing with possession of small quantities and smoking…The proposed changes represent an approach which will (redound) to the benefit of the persons concerned and the society as a whole, and reduce the burden on the court system,” the minister said.
Golding noted that the “current approach” to ganja criminalisation places a “significant burden” on Jamaica’s “overstretched” court system, and has contributed to current case backlogs in the Resident Magistrate’s Courts. He contended that the treatment of minor offences as ticketable offences should ease the pressure on the court system.
The minister advised, however, that the existing provisions of the law, which make ganja possession an offence, remain unchanged until Parliament approves the proposed amendments
“Therefore, our citizens are obliged to abide by the rule of law, as it (currently) stands,” he emphasized.