He added: “It eliminates an unnecessary source of friction between police and citizens, and ensures that our young people are not gratuitously shackled with criminal records. It is significant because it begins to correct decades of criminalising tens of thousands of Jamaicans, mostly poor young black males, for possession of a little ‘spliff’. This progressive legislation also begins to correct the victimization of our Rastafarian brethren which started in colonial times and continued after Independence.” Rastafarianism is a religion that was followed by late Jamaican reggae star Bob Marley and includes the ritualistic use of marijuana.
Gambia calls gain ground
Meanwhile, Omar Jallow, alias OJ, has urged The Gambia government to legalise Cannabis sativa. The opposition-PPP leader said The Gambia should take cue from countries like The Netherlands where the drug has been legalised. His comments came less than a year after a veteran Jamaican reggae singer and ‘riddim’ poet, Mutabaruka, made a similar plea to Gambian authorities on a visit to the country. “If Kanna [palm wine] is being sold openly in the market and it is more dangerous than Cannabis, why should we destroy our youths for smoking pot?” OJ queried in an interview with The Standard. He added: “I am strongly against sending people to prison for smoking Cannabis. Fortunately, there was a meeting recently by three former heads of state and the former secretary general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan and they were talking about how to resolve this cannabis issue. I am strongly against detaining and sending young people to prison because they are caught with a small quantity of Cannabis. “I was shocked one day when I was in Mile 2 and people were coming with their basins to serve us some porridge. I saw two young kids and I asked them what their ages were. One was 17 and the other was 18 and they were there because of Marijuana. I could not understand arresting a young person of 17 or 18 for smoking that small quantity of pot and put him together with hardened criminals in a high security prison. Whisky and Gin are also sold freely in the market and these are intoxicants that destroy the intestine, kidney, and liver. Cigarette also causes lung cancer and it is killing people and we are selling it here. “The question to ask is why a good number of countries in the world have now started legalising cannabis? They have seen no sense in jailing young people for it. Most drugs we are using have opium and that is not being talked about. I think the government should re-think its policy on the eradication of cannabis.”