Recently Jamacia was in the news. We here at T.O.K.E. put together some clippings we have come across for your perusual. We do NOT endorse the news organizations we display, as they do not endorse us either.
Copyright © 2001 The Seattle Times Company Nation & World : Sunday, August 19, 2001
By Yves Colon Knight Ridder Newspapers
KINGSTON, Jamaica Marijuana is as much a part of Jamaica's culture as reggae and Blue Mountain coffee, and a national group wants it to become just as legitimate.
The aptly named National Commission for Ganja the Hindi word for marijuana has recommended that the government legalize the private use and possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Between 20 and 40 percent of the country's 2.6 million people are believed to smoke marijuana, many openly.
"It is a welcome step, but it is far short for a country where thousands of people use ganja," said Paul Burke, a high-ranking member of the ruling Peoples National Party. "It's part of the culture."
It is by no means certain that Jamaica will change its marijuana laws several top government officials have already voiced their emphatic disagreement but the commission's suggestion to legalize the substance is part of a growing clamor throughout the hemisphere to ease strictures against it.
The United States is watching warily to see whether Jamaica's Parliament will adopt the commission's recommendations.
Jamaica, a major producer and exporter of marijuana, could risk losing U.S. certification and millions of dollars in American foreign aid if Washington decides the island is no longer cooperating in the war on drugs.
Richard Smyth, the charge d'affaire at the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica, made clear Washington's longstanding position on the issue.
"The U.S. administration does not support the decriminalization of marijuana use," he said. "Whenever Washington reviews the certification issue, they look at a broad range of issues, including interdiction, demand reduction, seizures of drugs, the legal structure and law-enforcement efforts in general."
Right now, possession of marijuana is illegal in Jamaica, but the law is rarely enforced and penalties are light. Members of the Rastafarian religion use it openly as part of their ceremonies.
The ganja commission wants to formalize what has amounted to governmental benign neglect. In its report, the commission said that used in small amounts, ganja caused no short or long-term health effects.
Penalizing individuals for small quantities of marijuana is "unjust" and discredits the entire Jamaican legal system, the report said.
"Ganja offenses have clogged up the court system for years, and diverted the police from the real problems, which are crack and cocaine," said Burke, a member of the National Alliance for Legalization, a lobby group. "That's the real threat of Jamaica."
Prime Minister P.J. Patterson set up the commission nine months ago. Its members physicians and academics traveled around the island, gauging sentiment.
The commission said children should be barred from using marijuana and its public use should remain illegal. It also said, however, the use of marijuana in religious ceremonies should be allowed.
The commission is only endorsing something that has been part of Jamaican life for many years, said Sydney Roberts, president of Jamaica Awareness, a nonprofit group that promotes Jamaican culture in South Florida.
He said it may lead to a further opening of the culture, and even become a cornerstone of the island's main industry tourism.
"Once they open the gate, it will go to legalization," he said. "For all intents and purposes, it was decriminalized a long time ago. Now, they're just putting it on the books." Copyright © 2001 The Seattle Times Company
By Matthew Rosenberg
KINGSTON, Jamaica - In the heart of Kingston, about a dozen men stand in an open-air emporium, stacking long buds of marijuana even though the crop is illegal in Jamaica.
"High-grade, the best. ... Smell it," says a Rastafarian at the Luke Lane market, who gives his name only as Toro as he beckons to a passerby. Sale completed, he lights a joint of rolled marijuana and smiles.
He has a lot to be happy about.
A national commission recommended Thursday that marijuana be legalized for personal use by adults - a move the government is considered likely to endorse despite opposition from the United States, which has spent millions to eradicate the crop on the Caribbean island.
"[Marijuana's] reputation among the people as a panacea and a spiritually enhancing substance is so strong that it must be regarded as culturally entrenched," the commission said.
The National Commission on Ganja - as marijuana is known here - also said Jamaica should allow the use of marijuana for religious purposes. This is important to the Rastafarian minority, who worship deceased Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie as a prophet and use marijuana as a sacrament.
Prime Minister P.J. Patterson last year appointed the commission, which included academics and doctors. He and elected officials have not publicly commented on the report. But Ralston Smith, an aide to Patterson, said: "My gut feeling is that the commission's recommendations will be followed."
Any change in drug laws would have to be approved by Parliament. Legalization, even for personal use, could cause friction with the United States and violate the 1988 U.N. Convention Against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Jamaica signed the accord.
"The U.S. opposes the decriminalization of marijuana," Michael Koplovsky, a U.S. Embassy spokesman, said Thursday.
During the last 20 years, the United States has worked with Jamaica to burn marijuana fields and carry out other antidrug efforts. It also has provided aid to fight drug trafficking in Jamaica, the Caribbean's largest marijuana exporter and a major transshipment point for cocaine bound for Europe and elsewhere.
The commission addressed these concerns, urging the government to "embark on diplomatic initiatives ... to elicit support for its internal position."
Between 1992 and 1998, the United States provided $7.8 million to Jamaica to eliminate marijuana production and trafficking.
Marijuana's deep roots were clear in Luke Lane after word spread of the commission's recommendation. The vendors were pleased at the possibility that it might soon be legal to use marijuana, even though selling the drug would remain illegal.
One dealer, who gave his name as Metro, said he earned about $100 on a good day. "This money doesn't go out to buy guns," he said. "It goes to food that fills the bellies of my children and puts them in school clothes and pays their school fees."