This column was written by University of the West Indies SSDP chapter member Vicki Hanson and originally appeared in the Jamaica Observer.
The passing of the amendment of the Dangerous Drugs Act 2015 in February has laid the foundation for the development of the policy framework governing a ganja industry in Jamaica.
The baton has now been passed to the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce (MIIC); Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining (MSTEM); and the ministry of Health. This leg of the relay requires these key Ministries to develop policies that will enable maximum economic benefit to the nation. This has led to a foray of discussions among many Jamaicans, especially those posturing to benefit from the “green gold rush”, on how best to ensure that the prospective policies result in the traditional ganja growers and the common citizens gaining a share of the “ganja pie”. It is therefore advisable that those specialists and consultants charged with the task of crafting these policies be mindful of the cultural and social importance of ganja to certain demographics, and come to the policy table divorced from all personal dogmas.
The Policy Problem
This leads us to consider the problems that must be tackled by each ministry, as it relates to the use of what most Jamaicans consider a very common and traditional product, “ganja”. The central problem now being faced by these ministries is how to navigate the attitude and thinking of the common Jamaican from ganja being totally tabooed, to a product that is decriminalised, but acceptable under certain conditions, even within an highly regulated framework. However, it is important to note that even with the previous criminal sanctions that were associated with the possession and use of ganja, it was widely used for folk medicine, in edibles, and for recreational purposes. Thereby, placing ganja in the category of a common good. The delineation of ganja as a common good will require a rational approach to the policy development by the technocrats so tasked.
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