Jamaican ganja activists plan road to law reform

| 18/06/2013

(lord gifford_0.JPGCNS): An organisation seeking to decriminalize the use of ganja in Jamaica is planning an international conference for September to urge more people to support the cause and push for the repeal the laws against its use.  "We need to stand up for our rights," attorney-at-law, Lord Anthony Gifford, told a press conference in Kingston last week when the event, organised by the Ganja Law Reform Coalition, was announced. Gifford, a UK hereditary peer who practices law in Jamaica and London, believes most Jamaicans will support decriminalization and the conference was aimed at starting a process of changing the law and encouraging government toact.

"We need to mobilize opinion, and I think Jamaican opinion is very favourable on the whole issue of the legalization of ganja, but we need to get up stand up, stand up for our rights," Gifford said whose interest in the plant began because of its medicinal qualities and his own bout with cancer.

"The Government has shown some sympathy to some decriminalization measures and expunging from criminal records but, as in all things, things don't happen until the people move and this conference will be a valuable tool for agitation," Gifford added.

According to the organisers, the Kingston-based conference will explore the scientific benefits and commercial opportunities of marijuana, and Paul Chang, the chairmanof the coalition, said the laws of Jamaica do not match the practises of its people, in particular the religious practices of the Rastafarian movement.

Although the GLRC does not promote the use of ganja, especially by minors, it believes the plant is a sacrament to many people and, like tobacco and alcohol, should be taxed and regulated.

Gifford, who is a director of the Ganja Law Reform Coalition, said the issue was a human rights one and there should not be a penalty for usage of marijuana in a moderate, responsible manner, as he urged Jamaicans to speak out.  “It makes no sense for people to be penalised … it’s their choice,” he said.

Assistant secretary of the Rastafari Millennium Council, Tzdhne Ishigyhd, questioned why the coca plant, from which cocaine is derived, and the poppy, which is used to make opium, are not illegal plants, but ganja is the only herb on the planet that is illegal.

While the world may have developed a perception of Jamaican society as ganja-tolerant, laws against its use have persisted because of the influence of the United States, which had for many years opposed its legalization. The history of ganja’s criminalisation is deeply tied up with the politics of difference and race and the American war on drugs. 

However, as the evidence mounts about the various medical and beneficial properties as well as the practical purposes for the use of the plant, ganja has been decriminalized in a number of American states. Its use for medical reasons is now legal in 18 states, as well as Washington DC, with another six are making plans for decriminalization. This legalisation is now fuelling business interest and another recent conference in New York saw Wall Street taking a particular interest in the plant and asking if cannabis will be the next big industry. 

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Legalize the herb,lets smoke

  2. Anonymous says:

    At the end of the day, the bottom line in considering something like this is that a) it would increase our tourism revenue (just look at the millions of Euros that the Netherlands make every year just from marijuana-based tourism alone), and it would b) reduce the operational cost of the RCIPS by allowing them to refocus their efforts and resources to crimes and areas of our island's society that are far more important than apprehending and prosecuting some silly high schooler who has enough on him for a spliff after school.


    Everyone is complaining about the global economic downturn. Everyone is complaining about the fact that the RCIPS seems to be "dropping the ball". Everyone is complaining about the fact that the government has no money, that people aren't coming to the island and spending money in the shops. People complaining that the judicial system is unfair and burdened with trivial cases when our island is being torn apart by far more serious crimes and criminals. 


    Then do something about it. Implement something that could alleviate some of our governments financial burdens and allow for a more focused and streamlined RCIPS. Seems like a possible winner for me. 

  3. Anonymous says:

    You idiots need to stop smoking and get real. Look around and see how many weed smokers are walking around without any ambition and living off their families. I have seen otherwise intelligent people become lazy, useless fools who spend most of their time in a daze of that same drug we call ganga. I'm glad it is illegal and pray that we never put fools in the Legislative Assembly who will change that status. It is a dangerous drug regardless of claims otherwise. We just as well say that alcohol is not a dangerous drug and we see what making that legal has done to the world!

    • Rob says:

      Anonymous, you really should do research on alcohol prohibition and the damage this regime did in the United States 1920-31. Thought by now most people would be aware of  the violence, deaths and health problems that prohibition brings through no quality control.There are reasons  why they relegalised alcohol !  Now we see the same problems with the illegal status of other drugs.

    • Anonymous says:

      People like you have only one way of thinking. What? Are you saying that you cannot be successful and enjoy a recreational substance like marijuana? Look at countries around the world that are beginning to legalise the plant and see how 'backwards' and 'unsuccessful' and 'lazy' all of their economies and populations are? You must be right.


      You're the kind of person who is incapable of having an intelligent conversation about anything that would possibly be considered controversial. I am someone who has had what I consider to be my dream job for the past few years. Did I stumble into the position? Did it accidentally fall into my lap? No. I worked my way through two degrees, and now I have my own company, which I am running successfully and enjoying every single day of. 


      My secret? I smoke ganja every day. 



      Get over yourself. 

    • Ambitiosless pothead says:

      Herb is natural. Alcohol..? Well I wont say "man", but "hUman-made". Justmy 0.02centavos mang.

  4. Pastor R says:

    Ganja smokers are on the list of people God finds abominable.  Right above homosexuals and below women who have had an abortion.

    • Anonymous says:

      God hating his own kids!

      • SSM345 says:

        God hates the plants HE made?

        I wonder if he was high in the clouds when he did it?

    • Anonymous says:
      Pastor R, 
      I'd like to draw your attention to:
      Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so. 
      God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. (Genesis 1:29-31)
      From the Book of Romans:
      "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." (Romans 14:2-17)
      Stop preaching hate and start preaching love.


    • Anonymous says:

      None of the groups of people you just listed are abominable in any way; and people like you should be wiped from this planet so we may start anew with compassionate, non-judgemental and most importantly, intelligent individuals. 

  5. Anonymous says:

    re: cayman……just bring in the californian medicinal use legislation and be done with it…..

    this needs to be done yesterday btw…….

  6. Anonymous says:

    Cayman should look at this industry as a serious revenue generator. There is a short window of opportunity before it's legalized in the US and worldwide and the commodity price drops.

    There is scope to setup a government/PPP farm producing strains for resale to licensed retailers and for medical/recreational use.

    This industry could easily generate $50-100 million in tax revenue per annum and employ between 20 and 50 Caymanians in industries such as horticulture, QA, retail, accounting, marketing and healthcare.

    Offshoot industries include, cosmetics, clothing and paper to name but a few.

    To use Colorado as an example, they recently granted $40 million to schools from tax generated by medical marijuana sales alone, can you imagine the money generated by full legislation and taxation. I'm aware we have a much smaller population than Colorado but we do have good tourism numbers that would increase income etc.

    One only needs to look at Portugals decriminalization to see positive results and reduction in drug use among minors. 10 years after decriminalization and they have the lowest drug use in Europe.

    With Cayman struggling toattract new industries and investment to the island, this industry could be the answer to Caymans revenue deficit.

    • Anonymous says:

      good luck with that…. we can't even buy groceries on a sunday !

  7. Anonymous says:

    Sounds good.


    Follow Washington State and Colorado, they are starting to get it right.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Yes we should be able to stand up for our rights. our rights to choose to mess with ilegal drugs or not. Not everyone wants to be around ganja smokers. It is a choice and it is ilegal. Why do we not also add a lot more items to the list that we should fight and argue about. There will be a time that drug users will be able to smoke and use and abuse all the drugs they want. I unerstand the concept behind it. I see what drug abuse does to a family. Its just ganja, its not bad. Then why does most ganja head abused persons look like a drug user.? Did anyone while fighting for them to use this drug understand that the average person if for what ever reason seen the use as similar to a seat belt crime, they would possible get hooked on this drug or any form of it and then have to feed the habbit, if one cannot get the funds to get stoned, they would have to find it, then we the public at large would have to tolerate the stealing and the zoned out looking persons. Why should I have to tolerate someone taking advantage in public and smoking an adictive drug. And yes as I said I understand the concept to remove the criminal part of the use, similar to what has been done with speeding and parking tickets. Is there not a better cause in this world to be fighting for other than to make ganja easier to smoke? How about educating the children and making them know that Ganja is ilegal and it is adictive. I am against this idea for the simple fact that I have seen first hand what a "simple" ganja stick can do to a young 18 year old. The same activist should try to make it a criminal act to be un-educated. The police would stop a person at random and subject them to a test. I like the fact that when I tell my children or that they know that it is ilegal they try the best to stay away from it. I dont want them to try it out for style. I prefer them to get educated. so before the goverment entertain that ganja head idea, please consider first there are more important things in this world, like education. You give children a passion for education, then you can let all the drugs be legal, since they will prefer education over ruining their lives with adictive drugs. And just the way drug user carry themselves should be ilegal.

    • ann says:

      ganja isnt addictive do some reading

    • Bai says:

      The cannabis plant has a history of human use that, to current knowledge, extends into antiquity. The plant has been used for various purposes and even into more recent generations, it has been hard to deny the medicinal properties of the plant which is intricately tied into it's legal status and distribution. I would suggest reading into the history of cannabis and it's use around the world- though bear in mind that many sources you will find are prejudiced. Advocates for legalisation such as Lord Gifford are faced with a difficult task in that there will be those that paint them as addicts and criminals, as well as threatening the level of control some institutions have over a product which is of lucrative value.

      It is as much of a choice to be around marijuana as it is to be around alcohol and tobacco. What one chooses to do with their own body is a choice that is sacred to each and every person alive. If another violates that choice, then that is a crime the same way as if someone were to trespass onto your private property. Have we not learned anything as a species that trying to dictate the whims and wishes of another has only made life difficult for the majority of people who simply want to live their lives, undisturbed? We walk around terrified of our own boogeyman that embodies only our individual fears. Substance abuse- of any sort- is a dangerous thing. However, just as a single drop of water can cause a pot to overflow, 'too much' of anything is never a good thing- and it isof little logic that a plant be viewed any differently. 

      It is human to externalize and to shift blame. We can blame leaf and bottle, friend and foe, the Devil, if we want, for our sins. We fail to realize that it is our fault. I do not want to seem condescending in the slightest, but the post above demonstrates that some people don't understand the difference between simple things such as what is 'illegal' and what is 'wrong'. To the author of 7:20, I agree 100% behind the need to empower our youth through education. However, may I remind you that there is no better teacher than experience. Do you blame the stove that burns your hand the same way in which you blame a plant for a person's consumption? You can tell a child to not touch a hot stove til you have not a breath in your body capable to say anymore, and it will never have the same power as if they were to feel the pain themselves. The system of education we esteem fails in this regard. What we should be doing is teaching our youth that they themselves are responsible for what they do with their lives and the world around them. If we had any confidence of this we would have no such irrational fear for a plant that is as capable of causing problems as would a pepper crushed in your eye.

      I empathise with you for it is clear you have seen what cannabis abuse can do, and you are not alone in that. I can say that I have seen many a brilliant, successful, kind person consumed by  their need for alcohol to the point that it is hard to say if they're even still here, though they may be breathing. Nor am I the only person to have personally experienced the repercusions of that. You say you are happy that your children listen to you, but I am certain that this has not or will not always be the case as they are individuals with their own desires that may not necessarily align with yours. That is the nature of the world we live in. We are the same: we do not think, feel, speak, look, or exist in the same way- and that is what makes us the same. Though you can not expect that for all your experiences that the next to come will not make the same foolhardy mistakes. If that were the case, wiser kings would have spared empires, or, for the religious, how we sin everyday despite knowing better.

      I can only quote a peer of mine: 'At the end of the day you're going to do you, and I'm going to do me.' Do I care if cannabis is legalised? Not particularly, but I do care for the reasons as to WHY it will be legalized or continue to be outlawed. Opinions will always differ, but while I perceive it is a matter that one is responsible for their own actions, I can hardly support the approach we have taken for so long.


    • Anonymous says:

      Would this be oppossed to an "old 18 year old"?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Too bad Cayman can't take a page out of Jamaica's book and move towards some reform when it comes to these minor drug laws. Surely the RCIPS have more important things to do than waste time with teenagers smoking a spliff?


    • Anonymous says:

      ganja ganja ganja !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! =weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeedd.

  10. Anonymous says:

    "If you legalize it they will come". All the pot smokers will move to jamaica. The country will boom in real estates sale. Go for it ,no more poor people.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Watch the Cayman weed heads jump on dis ya bandwaggon too.

  12. Anonymous says:

    legalize it yeah ah!

  13. 4 Cayman says:

    Great what’s next? Smart men always and continuously do dumb things!

  14. Anonymous says:

    pass de spliff nah!!

  15. Anonymous says:

    So this is what a real weed head looks like.  Always knew it.

  16. Anonymous says:

    It's time to stop wasting money on incarcerating petty criminals like people who smoke ganja in private, and start regulating its use so our broke government can get some revenue flowing. It's saving money and gaining money. A win win.


    However, we live in a society where this is unlikely to happen for a few generations to come. And I hope to see that day. Hemp has more health benefits (consumed as a food) than more than half of the everyday food you eat. Research it.