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Jamaica Church Leaders Say "Legalize It"

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Jamaica Church Leaders Say "Legalize It"

Jamaica's Weekly Gleaner reported last week that at least one
prominent church leader has called for legalizing drugs,
beginning with marijuana, and that his call is finding support
among other prominent Christian churchmen.

The Rev. Oliver Daley of the United Church in Jamaica and the
Cayman Islands, a widely respected religious leader, told the
Gleaner it is "illogical, hypocritical, and oppressive" to
criminally sanction marijuana.

Noting that, in his view, the addictiveness and dangerousness of
marijuana remained unproven, Daley said it was certainly not a
"natural born killer" like alcohol and tobacco, both of which are

The reverend took pains to point out that his stand does not mean
the church endorses drug use and he added that he considered the
drug trade to be the single greatest threat to the fabric of
Jamaican society.

But, he said, not everything that might be a sin should
necessarily be a crime. Rev. Daley took adultery as an example.
It is a sin, he said, but it would be impractical to make it
illegal, something the church learned long ago. Now, said the
reverend, politicians need to learn the same lesson regarding

Daley's comments build on positions he took in the 1999 Synod
Papers of his church, which argued that:

* In spite of all the draconian laws drugs are available at any
street corner in any of our communities.

* More people seem to die from the trade than from the use.

* All public officials -- courts, customs, law enforcement
agencies -- are vulnerable to the corruption of the drug lords,
and our society has become more dangerous to live in.

* Our prisons and legal system are overtaxed with the
consequence of prohibition.

* Prohibition did not work at the start of the 20th century, and
it surely is not working at the close. When things are
prohibited, but retain an economic value, we tend to behave more
like the beasts than like the gods.

In other comments to the Gleaner, Rev. Daley remarked on the
irony that the very people employed to suppress the drug trade
themselves live off of it. "If illegal drugs were to disappear,"
he said, "these law enforcement officials would be rendered
irrelevant and out of a job."

"This situation diminishes the moral authority of many of those
employed to wage war against drugs," he said.

Rev. Daley said that while it may be difficult for Jamaica to
legalize cocaine, "where ganja is concerned, where we are a major
supplier, and where it is a substance bearing cultural and
religious relevance to some in our society," legalization would
be both right and reasonable.

Daley's comments sparked cautious support from other clergymen.
Bishop Robert Foster of the Moravian Church told the Gleaner that
the case for legalization should be "carefully considered."
Foster added that he would welcome anything that diminished the
economic value of black market drugs and the greed it engenders.

The Reverend Stanley Clarke, former president of the Jamaican
Council of Churches, offered nuanced support for Daley's
position. Clarke told the Gleaner he would be reluctant to
legalize hard drugs, but that ganja was different. "In the
current Jamaican environment it is senseless to arrest someone
for a spliff or for growing a plot of weed for personal use --
making a criminal out of someone for a harmless activity."

The Gleaner did not query the Rastafarians, but the ganja-
consuming religionists are presumably in full support of moves to
legalize Jah herb.

The call by Rev. Daley comes in the wake of a move by the
Jamaican Senate last fall to establish a commission to examine
legalization of marijuana. In October, the Senate unanimously
passed that resolution.

It was sponsored by Sen. Trevor Monroe (Independent), who also
sponsored legislation to make possession of small amounts of
marijuana a non-criminal offense and to establish a medical
marijuana research center. Those bills died in parliament.

The commission to study legalization will not be the first. In
1977, a parliamentary commission recommended decriminalizing
marijuana, mandating a $10 fine for public use and allowing
doctors to prescribe it. Despite the conclusions of its
commission, parliament refused to enact reform legislation,
largely for fear of offending the United States.