Jamaica has set the wheels in motion to bring about the legalisation of the medical marijuana industry. The move is yet another change in the direction of global drug policy that raises the question, in the run up to the 2015 General Election, of why we aren’t discussing legalisation at home.
The Jamaican Senate passed legislation last week that would allow the possession of small amounts of cannabis as well as the decriminalisation of its use for medicinal, therapeutic or cultural purposes. According to the Jamaican Gleaner there will also be a system of permits and licenses created to allow growers to legally produce ‘ganja’ under a regulated authority.
Fittingly this Bill was passed on the birthday of Jamaica’s greatest export, Bob Marley. To become enshrined in law it still needs to be ratified by a vote in the House of Representatives but this may be a formality as the ruling party holds a comfortable majority.
The move has already prompted a terse warning from the US. It was reported in the Jamaican Observer that the assistant secretary to the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, William Brownfield raised concerns that legalised cultivation in Jamaica could raise the flow of illegally trafficked marijuana into the US. He raised these concerns given Jamaica’s status as both a major exporter and transit route for narcotics shipped from South and Central America.
If and when this legislation is passed it will rank Jamaica alongside other places which have moved along the path of legalisation or at least decriminalisation, such as Uruguay, the Czech Republic and Ecuador, and the US states of Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and Washington. A further number of US states are expected to join this number in coming years.
With a growing momentum behind the legalisation movement there is reason to call for its discussion in the UK on a much wider scale. Drug legalisation in the UK is a topic which is rarely discussed in the public arena and when it is, the discussion is very rarely open and without emotion. Only last year the opportunity of initiating a review of drug policy was dismissed by David Cameron when he tactically used his position as a father to ward away the issue as a threat to children.
It is important to discuss the issue openly and maturely as other countries already have. There has been a plethora of research conducted on the harm that the ‘war on drugs’ has wrecked upon states across the globe and if given the right coverage, it may sway the opinions of those sceptical about marijuana legalisation. It is not without reason that the continent experimenting with the most radical drug policy is South America, a continent that was ravaged by war and internecine conflict fuelled by drug organisations and dirty money. Moving with the momentum and allowing a positive and frank discussion into the topic of marijuana legalisation is the way forward rather than maintaining a backward mentality that will only continue a prohibition stance that frankly has not worked since its first instigation in the 1960s.
Marijuana legalisation will not be a major issue come the General Election in May but we should not disregard the examples set by other countries that are taking the step forward and trying an alternative approach. It is an issue that should be spoken about in 2015 and one that will continue to be an ever present problem if not dealt with soon. We must not allow our opinions on the matter to be clouded by value judgements and emotion, we must open our minds to the possibility that legalisation may in fact bring positive benefits.
In truth we could all learn a little from wisdom of Bob Marley:
“Why, why these people who want to do so much good for everyone, who call themselves governments and this and that. Why them say you must not use the herb? Them just say, ‘No, you mustn’t use it, you mustn’t use it because it will make you rebel.’ Against what?”