Newsbrief: Glacial Movement on Ganja Decrim in Jamaica 10/24/03

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The Jamaican parliament took one more step in its sluggish movement toward a vote on marijuana (ganja) decriminalization last week. A new parliamentary Joint Select Committee on ganja met October 15 to finally consider the recommendations made by the National Ganja Commission in July 2001. Among those recommendations was the decriminalization of the use and possession of small amounts of ganja, as well as its use for religious purposes (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/200/ganjacommission.shtml).

The meeting of the Joint Select Committee is only one step in the process that will, supporters hope, bring the issue to a vote this year. The committee will meet with the members of the national Ganja Commission in early November, and then should require only a few more meetings before making its own recommendations to parliament, committee member Delroy Chuck told the Jamaica Gleaner.

Chuck pressed his colleagues for quick action. "We have been lagging with this since 1972... I don't want us to be sitting on this next year; let us finish it this year," he said. "Let there be as minimum deliberations as possible so that the parliament can get it and let the parliament by whatever means make a decision," he added.

The National Commission on Ganja met over a nine-month period beginning in November 2000 and interviewed more than 350 people including health, legal, and other professionals and influential social leaders. The commission reported that the health consequences of marijuana did not merit making criminals out of "thousands of Jamaicans for using it in ways and with beliefs that are deeply rooted in the culture of the people."

While the ruling Jamaican Labor Party had vowed to move quickly on the commission's findings, internal divisions within the party have held it hostage. Some members fear decriminalizing ganja could bring down the wrath of the United States. But now, if the committee moves forward, the question could soon be before parliament.

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