Ganja is not entirely safe

The national Commission on Ganja accepts that ganja is not entirely safe. Despite its proven folk medicinal qualities, its use can be injurious to health. There is evidence that for those who smoke it, the inhalation of tar and other compounds can affect the lungs; that users can experience short term memory loss and delayed reaction time; and that among young people it can retard the learning process. There is also documented evidence that the substance can produce in some people a mentally-disturbed state of ganja psychosis.
Notwithstanding these and other ill effects, the Commission is of the view that many, if not most persons who use ganja in moderation suffer no apparent short or long term debility.

Not only that, but its reputation among the people as a panacea and a spiritually- enhancing substance is so strong that it must be regarded as culturally entrenched. As a result, the practice of criminalising the users of small quantities does far more harm than good to the society as a whole. The Commission is mindful also that there are legally available substances that have been shown to have physiological and psychological ill-effects that, based on current evidence, are more injurious than those of ganja. Such is the case with alcohol and tobacco.

It is the view of the Commission that the punitive sanctions administered by the justice system to users of small quantities is not only unjust, but is a major source of disrespect and contempt for the legal system as a whole. Moreover, the punishment meted out to such offenders has not had and is not likely to have the desired effect of a deterrent. Administering the present laws as they apply to possession and use of small quantities of ganja not only puts an unbearable strain on the relationship of the police with the communities, in particular the male youth, but also ties up the justice system and the work of the police, who could use their time to much greater advantage in the relentless pursuit of crack/cocaine trafficking.

Accordingly the Commission recommends as follows:

That the relevant laws be amended so that ganja be decriminalised for the private, personal use of small quantities by adults;

That decriminalisation for personal use should exclude smoking by juveniles or by anyone in premises accessible to the public;

That ganja should be decriminalised for use as a sacrament for religious purposes;

That a sustained all-media, all-schools education programme aimed at demand reduction accompany the process of decriminalisation, and that its target should be, in the main, young people;

That the security forces intensify their interdiction of large cultivations of ganja and trafficking of all illegal drugs, in particular crack/cocaine;

That, in order that Jamaica be not left behind, a Cannabis Research Agency be set up, in collaboration with other countries, to co-ordinate research into all aspects of cannabis, including its epidemiological and psychological effects, and importantly as well its pharmacological and economic potential, such as is being done by many other countries, not least including some of the most vigorous in its suppression; and

That as a matter of great urgency Jamaica embark on diplomatic initiatives with its CARICOM partners and other countries outside the region, in particular members of the European Union, with a view (a) to elicit support for its internal position, and (b) to influence the international community to re-examine the status of cannabis.

Jamaica Gleaner
[email protected]
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