At the turn of the century then Prime Minister PJ Patterson established the National Commission on Ganja chaired by the late Professor Barry Chevannes. The final report which was quite comprehensive recommended the decriminalization of ganja in small quantities for private use by adults. Hardly any progress has happened since as government after government simply dragged their feet on the issue. The only glimmer of hope occurred under the previous administration which moved to send persons arrested for about eight ounces of the weed to the petty sessions court for adjudication.
USA MOVING FAST
Beyond that, in the United States of America just last year we saw where voters in the states of Colorado and Washington voted for the legalization of ganja for recreational use in small quantities. In WashingtonState today if you are 21 and older, one can possess up to an ounce of ganja for their own use among other variations for cakes, buns and teas. Sixteen other American states have enacted versions of ganja decriminalization including New York, California, North Carolina and Ohio. Internationally, the same is true in countries stretching from Europe to the Americas. Recreational ganja users no longer face time in jail and or suffer the misfortune of having a criminal record. Opposition Senator Tom Tavares-Finson shocked the nation when he last summer pointed out that at the Resident Magistrate Court in Half-Way-Tree alone, approximately 300 young Jamaican males receive criminal records for small quantities of ganja on a weekly basis. A criminal record as we all know serves as a major impediment on upward mobility, as being able get visas, some jobs and take on other critical life endeavors become next to impossible.
GET JAMAICA MOVING
For a nation renowned worldwide for ganja, which is primarily attributable to our rich and unique Rastafarian influences, it is a crying shame that we continue to dawdle on an obviously absurd and unjust legal framework. The cultural issues aside, from an economic standpoint the country is in a very strong position to attract thousands more tourists to our shores, develop new industries, create jobs all while collecting millions in new revenues. In the state of Washington ganja legally sold from licensed state-licensed stores will be taxed at a rate of 25%, with experts already predicting a windfall of hundred of millions of US dollars in new revenue for the State on a yearly basis.
BROWN-BURKE AND PRYCE
Twelve years after the National Commission on Ganja report was submitted, Senator Angela Brown-Burke very recently in the Senate boldly called for the decriminalization of cannabis or ganja for medicinal reasons. Days after Mr. Raymond Pryce, Member of Parliament called for a debate on the decriminalisation of ganja as well as a prescribed legal limit for possession. Senator Brown-Burke in her presentation noted that, “There are other states and other countries that are way advanced than we are because they have taken that bold step to step forward.” The Senator who is also the Mayor of Kingston and inarguably the most powerful Vice President of the ruling PNP, deserves as much support as she can get and the same is true for Mr. Pryce, known to be particularly close to Prime Minister Simpson-Miller.
Former Government Senator Dennis Meadows and Member of Parliament Mike Henry have been vocal on the matter with very little action from the previous administration. In any event, Senator Brown-Burke’s and Mr. Pryce’s statements may very well represent a strong signal that the administration is moving speedily to unlock the massive and positive impact that decriminalization will have from cultural, social, judicial and economic standpoints. We hope that their bold positions will be furthered with the fixity of purpose and alacrity that is required. Let’s tax, regulate, control and educate on ganja. We have wasted enough time already. Let’s think big and get our country moving again.