Jamaica Speaks Up On 420 About Decriminalizing Pot
April 20 marks a significant day for Jamaica as they questioned the UN’s outdated stand on marijuana Jamaican Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith spoke to the UN General Assembly on April 20, stating that labeling pot as a dangerous drug and one with no medical benefits, as indicated in the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, should be obsolete. She also added that the current classification of marijuana in the Single Convention should be backed up by evidence and science, among other things.
Johnson-Smith also informed delegates that the herb has long been used as folk medicine and is also a religious sacrament in Rastafari. The day before the General Assembly, she made similar comments about the UNGASS or the UN’s drug policy. She stated that the Jamaican government is discouraged since the UNGASS doesn’t permit countries to customize their policies depending on various national circumstances such as the traditional use of marijuana.
In 2015, Jamaica altered their drug laws to decriminalize the possession of cannabis provided that it is under 2 ounces. The country also created a legal regime for the sole purpose of regulating the Rastafarian usage of cannabis for religious means. The Jamaican government also made arrangements for regulated therapeutic, scientific, and medical marijuana use. The Cannabis Licensing Authority was established to monitor and regulate its use in Jamaica.
One Size Won’t Fit All
According to Michael Botticelli, the White House Office Director on the National Drug Policy, each country needs to address needs of various minors such as the indigenous, women, children,and LGBT group all of whom are underserved. He added that law enforcement agencies should target criminals rather than individuals who are suffering from substance abuse and thus need recovery support.Johnson-Smith added that Jamaica is on the final stages of drafting a 5 year national drug plan that will encompass rehabilitation and treatment as well as plans that will reduce the overall demand. The only thing seemingly missing from Jamaica is the creation of a legal marijuana market, which Uruguay already did 2 years ago, and is something that Canada intends for 2017. Four American states together with Washington DC have already done the same.
Werner Sipp, the president of the International Narcotics Control Board, suggests that Uruguay and the US may be defying the conventions since they tolerate recreational cannabis use. However, he thinks that the issue with Jamaica may take some time since their case isn’t quite clear.
On the other hand, Senator Mark Golding, who was acting minister of justice for Jamaica during the 2015 reform, added that it was no longer viable that the UNGASS treats non-scientific or non-medical use of cannabis as criminal.
In order to get started, the World Health Organization will have to formally review the current status of marijuana in the convention. By recommending to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs that pot should be rescheduled, the WHO can pave the way for decriminalizing cannabis however this hasn’t happened yet because of pressure from countries with strict drug laws.
Golding also added that there is already sufficient evidence about the medical benefits of cannabis. Thus the current scheduling of the plant as having no medical value is no longer feasible.
What do you think about the stance of Jamaica in updating the old drug policies?