Jamaica to decriminalize personal
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[June 13, 2014]
By Horace Helps
KINGSTON (Reuters) - The Jamaican
government has decided to decriminalize the possession of small amounts
of marijuana, joining the trickle of countries moving to soften laws on
the drug known on the Caribbean island as "ganja."
Minister of Justice Mark Golding made the announcement at an
afternoon news conference on Thursday saying that Jamaica's
Dangerous Drugs Act would be formally amended this summer.
The cabinet of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller made the
decision on June 2, he said.
"Cabinet approved certain changes to the law relating to ganja.
These relate to possession of small quantities of ganja for personal
use, the smoking of ganja in private places and the use of ganja for
medical-medicinal purposes," he said.
"Approval has been given also to a proposal for the
decriminalization of the use of ganja for religious purposes," he
Uruguay recently became the latest country to legalize marijuana
use, joining several countries in Europe as well as the U.S. states
of Colorado and Washington.
Possession of small quantities of the drug would become a
non-arrestable, ticketable infraction in Jamaica resulting in a
fine, Golding said.
"Too many of our young people have ended up with criminal
convictions after being caught with a 'spliff,' something that has
affected their ability to do things like get jobs and get visas to
travel overseas," Golding said.
He added that the government would propose a bill in the Jamaican
Parliament soon that will expunge the criminal records of people
convicted for possession of small amounts of the drug, which is
grown widely across Jamaica.
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The change means that a person cannot be arrested if he has in his
possession up to 57 grams (2 ounces) of ganja in a public space.
Anyone ticketed will be given 30 days to pay the fine, failure of
which will result in it becoming a minor offense, resulting in the
offender doing court-ordered community service.
According to Golding, possession of ganja for religious or
therapeutic purposes as prescribed by a registered medical
practitioner, or for scientific research by an accredited
institution, will also be decriminalized.
(Editing by David Adams and Sandra Maler)
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