IRIE! Jamaican Senate Passes Marijuana Legislation on Bob Marleys Birthday

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Bob Marley in Concert at the Fox Theater in Atlanta - November 12, 1979Jamaican Senate Passes Pot Legalization Act on Bob Marley’s Birthday

After five hours of deliberation, the Jamaican Senate voted to pass the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Act of 2015. This bill, supported heavily by Justice Minister Mark Golding and Prime Minister Sophia Simpson Miller, brings the country one step closer to legalizing cannabis. It goes to be deliberated in front of the House of Representatives in March.

The January 6th announcement that the act had passed Senate came on what would have been Bob Marley’s 70th birthday. Marley is a global icon, famous for his music as well as his political activism and marijuana advocacy. Although ganja is synonymous with Jamaica and vice versa, it is still very much illegal throughout the country. Finding pot in the country may not be problem but getting caught with it by authorities certainly is

The Dangerous Drug Amendment Act of 2015 is a bill that citizens and government figures alike hope passes due to the difficulties that the Dangerous Drugs Act has caused in the country. In the old Dangerous Drugs Act, anyone that was found in possession of weed faced up to five years and a penalty of $100 per ounce. This strict law caused 4,367 individuals to be convicted of drug-related offenses in 2013, as compiled by the Criminal Records Office of Jamaica Constabulary Force. The majority of these arrests were for simple possession of pot. One such arrest triggered whirlwind local headlines and the calling for immediate overhaul of drug laws following the death of Mario Deane, who was killed inside of his jail cell after being booked for possessing a joint.

If passed by remaining members of Parliament, the possession of two ounces of ganja or less would result in a $500 ticket instead of arrest. Payable within 30 days, persons must attend petty court to answer the charges against them. If there is found to be no reasonable cause for missing payment, a $2,000 charge and/or community service will be ordered. Citizens will be able to grow no more than five plants on any premises and tourists who have been prescribed medical marijuana in other countries would be able to purchase small amounts of cannabis in Jamaica. The act would also establish the Cannabis Licensing Authority. This group would control access to licenses and approvals that permit the launch of controlled and structured marijuana organizations for medicinal, therapeutic and scientific purposes.

Not everyone is excited about the proposed amendments however. Marlene Malahoo Forte, an opposing Senator, found sections of the bill to be problematic and called for several of them to be reworded. She felt that some of the problems that the law should eliminate may not actually do so. According to legislation, while it is clear that holding more than two ounces of ganja won’t result in a criminal record, it was unclear if refusing to pay a fine would be a recordable offence.

“When judges, whether at the magistrate level, or whether a magistrate exercising the jurisdiction of two justices of the peace in the petty sessions jurisdiction, are adjudicating on matters [they] don’t always have the law at their fingertips. Many things (can) happen, from my experience… we are talking about making life easier [for persons found in breach],” Forte argued during the hearing

Golding contended that the same penalty would apply to everyone who did not pay their fine and that no exceptions would be made for anyone.

“It’s the same regime, except that we have put in a community service element, up front and center, because that is what we would like to be the approach,” Golding stated in an interview with The Jamaican Observer. “I draw a very big distinction between non-payment of a ticket, which is a very modest sum, and the thing for which you got the ticket…It opposes the rule of law, to say somebody cannot pay their ticket, with impunity. I’m not in favor of it”.

The Dangerous Drugs Amendments Act of 2015 comes on the heels of businessman Peter Thiel’s investment firm’s multi-million dollar venture with a Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm that invests specifically in marijuana and marijuana products. Thiel, celebrated for his investment prowess having been part of funding for Facebook, AirBnB and Spotify, invested $75 million into Privateer Holdings. The company joined with the Marley family late last year to develop Marley Natural, a weed brand specializing in vintage marijuana strains and cannabis-infused creams and lotions. The Jamaican Government hopes to gain substantial economic increases from the decriminalization of weed.

About time Jamaica legalized weed, right? How will this decriminalization affect the marijuana industry in the country? Worldwide? Why do you think weed has been prohibited in Jamaica?

pretty much a god. or at least a super hero.