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‘Enlightened approach’: Jamaica relaxes ban on marijuana possession

Published time: June 13, 2014 10:32
Reuters/Gilbert Bellamy

Reuters/Gilbert Bellamy

Jamaica’s government has approved legislation to ease a ban on the possession of small amounts of weed. Hailed as a more “enlightened approach,” the bill will also decriminalize the use of the drug for religious, medical and scientific ends.

Jamaican lawmakers approved the amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act which will legalize the possession of small amounts of pot, or ganja as it’s locally known, in certain cases.

"Cabinet has approved certain changes to the law relating to ganja. These relate to the possession of small quantities of ganja for personal use, the smoking of ganja in private places and the use of ganja for medical/medicinal purposes,"
said Justice Minister Mark Golding.

The amendment is likely to be made law in September when the Jamaican parliament return from their summer break. The new regulations will drastically scale down the punishment for carrying up to 57 grams of the drug. Citizens caught in possession of weed will no longer be arrested. Instead they will be issued with a ticket and asked to pay a fine.

In addition, the amendment decriminalizes the use of the drug for scientific, religious and medical purposes. The cultivation of cannabis for medical and industrial ends will also be permitted under the amendment.

Golding said the new legislation was not intended in any way to promote the consumption of marijuana.

"The objective is to provide a more enlightened approach to dealing with possession of small quantities,”
he said, stressing the drug will still be illegal to smoke in public.

"Smoking of ganja should be absorbed into the general non-smoking regime, with the same penalty structure, except that the smoking of ganja will be permitted in private places," he said.

Jamaica’s Rastafarian movement, which views cannabis as sacred, has long called for the legalization of the drug. They will now be able to use the drug in special places designated for religious worship.

The legalization of marijuana in Uruguay and Colorado has prompted many governments to reassess their policies on marijuana.

Last December Uruguayan President Jose Mujica signed a law decriminalizing the consumption, cultivation and sale of the drug. In doing so he hopes to undercut the illegal drugs industry in the country.

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