KINGSTON, Feb. 25 (JIS) – Minister of National Security, Hon. Peter Bunting, said a regulated regime for the use of ganja can have positive benefits for law enforcement, including reducing organised crime, while enabling more efficient use of police resources.
Minister Bunting was speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (February 24), where the Bill to amend the Dangerous Drugs Act was passed.
The Bill seeks to, among other things: make the possession of small quantities of ganja a non-arrestable offence and, to instead, make it a ticketable infraction that does not result in a criminal record.
It also permits the use of ganja for religious, medical, scientific, and therapeutic purposes; and provides for the granting of licences for the development of a lawful industry for medical ganja and industrial hemp.
Noting the impact on crime reduction, Minister Bunting said: “A regime for legal production and distribution of ganja eliminates the monopoly that organised criminals now have in this area and consequently reduce their funding for criminal enterprise.”
He cited law enforcement reports, which suggest that since the regulated regimes for medicinal and recreational marijuana have come into effect in some states in the United States of America (USA), the price for Mexican marijuana has dropped by more than 50 per cent, making it uneconomical for many of the Mexican cartels to continue exporting to the USA.
The Minister said the provision to make possession of small quantities of ganja a non-arrestable offence will reduce incarceration of young people, lessen the caseload in the Resident Magistrate’s Courts and enable more efficient and effective use of police resources.
“One social cost of those thousands of arrests and convictions per year, over decades, has been to consign these young men to the margins of our economy. With a criminal record, they are unable to get many jobs, prohibited from farm work programmes, and restricted in their overseas travel. Ironically, by reducing their legitimate opportunities, it increases the likelihood of their involvement in criminal activity such as housebreaking, larceny, robbery, etcetera,” he said.
He noted that already, the policy is enabling the police to deploy resources where they are most needed.
“In 2014, with our policy direction already clear, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) arrested 5,300 fewer persons for minor offences, primarily possession of small quantities of ganja, than in 2013, thereby freeing tens of thousands of police man-hours to focus on serious criminals,” Mr. Bunting said.
He also noted that the passage of the Bill will remove a source of friction between the police and the community, which will result in an improvement in police-citizen relations.
The Minister, however, made it clear that the passage of the Bill does not create a “free- for-all” in the growing, transporting, dealing, or exporting of ganja. He said the security forces will continue to rigorously enforce Jamaica’s law consistent with international treaty obligations.
Member of Parliament for St. Andrew North Eastern, Delroy Chuck, while welcoming the passage of the Bill, noted that persons should be encouraged not to excessively use ganja.
“I have no doubt that the excessive use of marijuana, just like the excessive use of food or alcohol, is bad for the body. There can be no doubt that… we should be promoting the non-use of marijuana, cigarette smoking, and alcohol for good health,” Mr. Chuck said.
For his part, Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, noted that the establishment of a marijuana industry represents for Jamaica, a new and emerging sector with tremendous possibilities.
He added that while the cannabis industry has been developing organically, every effort must now be made for it to achieve its full potential.
“This means adopting a strong commercial approach, based on entrepreneurial practices that are market-driven, broad-based, and results in value-added outputs of both goods and services,” Mr. Hylton said.
He noted that the Ministry has been involved in the efforts to establish a local medical marijuana industry, through the development of regulations, standards, intellectual property provisions, investment promotion, and the involvement of the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME).
Mr. Hylton also welcomed the provisions in the Bill for the creation of a Cannabis Licensing Authority to regulate hemp and medicinal ganja.
Mr. Hylton noted that in moving the hemp industry forward, a cross Ministry consultative group has been established and draft regulations governing the establishment of industrial hemp as a viable investment opportunity has been developed, taking into consideration the role of the local farming community.
“Much work has already been done by this consultative working group and further consultations towards finalisation of hemp regulations awaits the passage into law by this Honourable House,” he stated.
In closing the debate, Mr. Bunting noted that the legislation was covering new ground and will be kept under constant review, while adding that the implementation of the provisions of the Bill will take some time.
The legislation was passed in the Senate on Friday, February 6, with five amendments.
CARPHA Remembers Former PAHO Director Emeritus – Dr. Carissa Etienne as a “Tireless Advocate for Regional Solidarity”
Port of Spain, Trinidad. 01 December, 2023: It is with profound sadness and shock that I extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends, people of Dominica, the Caribbean Community and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), on the untimely passing of PAHO Director Emeritus, Dr. Carissa Etienne.
Dr. Etienne’s contributions to public health in the Americas were not only significant, but also transformative. Her leadership and unwavering commitment to our Caribbean Community’s collective pursuit of healthier people, healthier spaces and a healthier Caribbean were a source of inspiration to many. Dr. Etienne was a tireless advocate for The Americas’ regional solidarity, for she knew that was the only way to address the glaring inequalities that exist here.
She was the Director at PAHO for most of the life of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), and under her leadership, CARPHA graduated from the PAHO Biennial Work Programme (BWP) arrangement to having framework agreements.
PAHO funded many of the programmes that are difficult to attract support, like the Caribbean Regulatory System (CRS) and the Medicines Quality Control and Surveillance Department (MQCSD), which are important services for the Region to ensure the quality of medicines. Under Dr. Etienne’s leadership, PAHO also funded non-communicable disease interventions, another area that does not attract large pots of funding, although the number one cause of deaths in the Caribbean region.
During the Pandemic, CARPHA worked with PAHO to fund the downpayments to give 12 Member States access to COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX to the tune of US$2.6 million.
Dr. Etienne will be remembered as a true Caribbean lady who worked with great dedication and focus throughout the horrible COVID-19 period and right up to her last working day at PAHO.
During this challenging time, we pray that God will give strength to Dr. Etienne’s family, friends, and colleagues. CARPHA cherishes the memories of her remarkable contributions to the well-being of individuals and communities throughout the Americas, but especially the Caribbean.
The CARPHA Executive Management and staff stand in solidarity with our Caribbean Community as we mourn the loss of a visionary leader.
Dr. Joy St. John
Executive Director, CARPHA
Energy & Utilities Commissioner says new legislation will help to stabilize energy costs in Turks & Caicos Islands
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – Thursday, 30th November 2023: The Energy and Utilities Department (EUD) of the Turks and Caicos Islands, today reminds the public that the comprehensive Renewable Energy Legislation is currently before the House of Assembly and that the Legislation not only addresses the existing challenges posed by fuel price volatility but also lays the foundation for a sustainable and resilient energy future for the TCI.
In a recent press release, FortisTCI cited global factors such as production cuts and increased demand for fuel, leading to a surge in market prices. The EUD acknowledging these challenges thanks our power supplier for its proactivity when it comes to informing consumers of any changes in the cost of electricity. Further, the Government of Turks and Caicos wants residents and guests to know that it is committed to taking proactive measures that will transform the energy landscape through robust Renewable Energy Legislation.
In that vein, Delano Arthur, the new Energy and Utilities Commissioner looks forward to working with FortisTCI in the upcoming days to find innovative and collaborative solutions to reduce the cost of Fuel and Energy in the Turks and Caicos Islands. This initiative aims to not only mitigate the impact of volatile fuel prices but also secures a sustainable, reliable and affordable energy future for all of us.
Key components of the Renewable Energy Legislation include:
- Integrated Resource Plans: A formal planning process to prioritise renewable energy in addressing evolving energy needs.
- Competitive Tendering Process: Government-run initiatives to promote healthy renewable energy competition, achieve low-cost energy, and meet Paris Agreement goals.
- Administrative and Regulatory Measures: Establishing clear processes and responsibilities for all players who are in the renewable energy market.
- Licensing and Safety Standards: Comprehensive licensing provisions to ensure accountability and safety standards for renewable energy systems.
- Net Billing Program: Allowing building owners to self-generate and sell surplus electricity back to the grid.
The Renewable Energy Legislation serves as a mitigation against volatile fuel prices. By transitioning to cleaner energy sources and fostering a diverse renewable energy infrastructure, these Islands aim to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. The competitive tendering process introduced in the legislation ensures the selection of the most cost-effective renewable energy solutions, contributing to energy affordability and stability.
As the Islands invest in renewable energy, the increased share of clean, locally produced electricity provides a stable alternative to fluctuating fuel prices. The Net Billing Programme further incentivises distributed energy generation, offering a predictable path for building owners to contribute to the grid and receive compensation, thus reducing reliance on traditional fuel sources.
For further information, please contact:
Delano R. Arthur
Energy and Utilities Department
Turks and Caicos Islands Government
CANARI outlines climate priorities ahead of Cop28
The Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) informed that the Caribbean Climate Justice Alliance, in preparation for the upcoming annual COP28 in 2023, launched its “Caribbean Climate Justice and Resilience Agenda,” outlining the priorities for climate justice and resilience in vulnerable Caribbean small island developing states (SIDS).
In a press release, CANARI highlighted that the agenda recognizes the major threat of climate change to the region as well as aims to louden the voices of the at-risk groups “on the frontlines of the climate crisis and catalyze actions for climate justice and local resilience in the Caribbean SIDS.”
The priorities stated under the agenda are:
- Curbing emissions to limit global temperature
increase to 1.5 ̊C
- Scaling up locally-led solutions for adaptation and
loss and damage
- Improving access to and delivery of climate finance
for frontline communities, small and micro enterprises, and civil society organizations as part of a ‘whole of society’ approach
- Scaling up just, nature-based solutions for resilience
- Supporting a just transition for pro-poor, inclusive,
sustainable and resilient development
- Promoting gender equity and social inclusion
approaches to climate action
- Promoting youth and intergenerational equity as
core to the climate response
- Integrating a rights-based and earth-centered
approach in addressing all these priorities and ensuring climate justice
The at-risk groups referred to in the release include small-scale farmers and fisherfolk, rural women producers, income-poor people, elderly and disabled people, Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, migrants, and LGBTQIA+ people.
Being cognizant of the severity of the effects of climate change on the Caribbean, CANARI referred to the fact that the very existence of the region is on the line.
“If greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated and global temperature exceeds 1.5 ̊C, the impacts of rising sea levels, more intense hurricanes, rainfall variability, ocean acidification, and other changes threaten the very existence of our way of life in the Caribbean and other SIDS that have contributed the least to global emissions.”
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