We note that the National Commission on Ganja is nearing the end of its
work. Some nine months of hearings have been held in all parishes aimed at
framing recommendations about possible decriminalisation of the drug.

As we understand it, the objective is to determine whether the drug should
be decriminalised for limited personal use. The Commission, headed by
Professor Barry Chevannes, was asked by the Prime Minister to examine the
possible economic, cultural, social and international effects if a positive
recommendation is instituted.

Professor Chevannes has stated that a majority of some 250 persons
appearing before the seven-member Commission were in favour of
decriminalisation; but the Commission would not necessarily be swayed by that.

Even before a final determination is reached we think it is important to
recognise some current realities. Firstly, neither law nor gentle
persuasion will ever eradicate the growth and use of ganja in this society.

One remote possibility is the upgrading of legal farming activity to make
it a more attractive economic alternative. We doubt that even the affable
Roger Clarke as Minister of Agriculture is that optimistic.

Secondly, chasing spliff smokers, as happens so often, is futile and
counter-productive law enforcement. Policemen must know that the pungent
aroma of the weed at pop music sessions and political rallies is more the
rule than the exception. It is a part of the popular entertainment scene.

In short, ganja is part of Jamaican culture even beyond the ritual usage
that is fiercely defended on religious grounds.

The negative side of ganja, of course, is the trafficking which is a major
part of the crime scene. It will be difficult to separate this illegal
aspect from the recreational or religious usage; which is what
decriminalisation is all about. But the effort must be made.

Maintaining a purely hardline stance against ganja is no more tenable than
the 1919-33 Prohibition against alcohol was in the USA.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect
the views of The Gleaner.

Newshawk: Paul Chang \CW Jamaica\
Pubdate: Fri, 27 Jul 2001
Source: Jamaica Gleaner (Jamaica)
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