After gathering dust for several years, the report of Jamaica’s National Commission on Ganja is to be considered shortly by a joint select committee of parliament.
The Senate appointed its members to the committee, who will sit with their colleagues from the House of Representatives to deliberate on the recommendations of the commission, which was chaired by noted social anthropologist, Professor Barry Chevannes.
The commission was appointed by Prime Minister PJ Patterson in September 2000, and after hearing from more than 300 persons in islandwide consultations, delivered its report in August 2001.
It recommended, among other things, that possession by adults of small quantities of ganja in private premises for personal use be decriminalised, and that its use as a religious sacrament be respected. The commission also called for the establishment of an institute to study the possible scientific and commercial benefits that could be derived from the legal exploitation of the ganja plant.
The commission’s report should have been considered by parliament shortly after it was submitted, but has largely been ignored by legislators.
While local politicians have been silent on the matter, however, the United States, Jamaica’s largest trading partner, has been quite vocal, with the State Department making clear the American government’s disapproval of any move to give any form oflegitimacy to the use of the ganja plant.
While naming the committee yesterday, Senator A.J. Nicholson, Leader of Government Business and Attorney-General, called for quick action to bring the matter to a close.
“It is full time that that committee meets, bearing in mind that the suggestions have been placed on the table. There are concerns, both nationally and internationally, so I believe that committee should certainly meet and do its work,” he said.
The other members of the Ganja Commission were Rev. Dr. Webster Edwards, Anthony Freckleton, Norma Linton, Q.C., DiMario McDowell, Dr. Aileen Standard Goldson, and Barbara Smith.
The Senate appointed several other committees yesterday. Among them is one that will consider proposals for the establishment of flexible working hours and another will focus on local government reform.