WITH JAMAICA'S Ministry of Justice positioning itself to seek approval from Cabinet for the decriminalisation of marijuana, government Senator Mark Golding said the country is to advance constitutional justification to its international partners for the revision of the law.
Golding, the country's justice minister, said his ministry is giving active consideration to reforming the law relating to ganja in Jamaica.
Responding to questions posed in the Senate by Robert Montague yesterday, Golding said the revised law would permit the possession of small amounts of ganja, about two ounces, for recreational use.
However, the Attorney General's Department provided the justice ministry with a legal opinion indicating that Jamaica would have to advance constitutional justification to its international partners for the decriminalisation of marijuana.
PARTY TO TREATIES
Golding said Jamaica is a party to at least two international treaties which criminalise certain forms of conduct, such as the production, cultivation, sale, and distribution of any narcotic drug or substance.
"It is being considered whether such justification may be made based on the right of freedom of religion and the right to have respect for and protection of private life and privacy of the home," Golding said.
The United Nations Single Convention of 1961 - one of the treaties to which Jamaica has signed - requires parties to limit exclusively to medical and scientific purposes, the production, manufacture, export, import, distribution of, trade in, use and possession of drugs.
HOUSE SPLIT ON ISSUE
Earlier this month, the House of Representatives gave the nod to a private member's motion calling for the decriminalisation of ganja, following weeks of rigorous debate, which saw members on the government side split on the issue.
North East St Elizabeth Member of Parliament Raymond Pryce, had moved a motion in the House saying the decriminalisation of marijuana was a human-rights issue.
Pryce said criminal records haunt thousands of Jamaicans and their families and suggested that the Parliament debate the practicality of a prescribed amount of marijuana, below which there would be no criminal prosecution for the possession for personal use.
In the Senate yesterday, Golding said his ministry is considering to permit the use of ganja for medicinal use and to make it legal for persons to smoke ganja in private places.
"These considerations do not yet represent government policy as they have not been considered by Cabinet," the minister said.
He told the Senate that careful considerations were being given to the implication of the reform, including the Government's international obligations.
In the meantime, opposition Senator Alexander Williams, in his contribution to the State of the Nation Debate, said Jamaica was missing out on a multibillion-dollar medical marijuana market. In lending support to the call for decriminalisation of marijuana, Williams said Jamaica would have a natural advantage in the industry.