The Jamaican government has done a great job by erasing the criminal records of convicts who were arrested for ganja related offenses, Hype Life Magazine has learned.
Justice Minister, Senator Mark Golding says nearly 2,000 people who were convicted for certain ganja related offenses, have had their criminal records erased.
Parliament approved a Bill in October last year to have convictions expunged for persons who were previously fined up to 1-thousand dollars for a ganja related offense.
Cabinet has approved a proposal to amend the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Act to, among other things, provide for the automatic expungement of certain minor offences, including smoking marijuana (ganja).
He says between 12,000 and 15,000 people are brought before the court annually for minor ganja offences.
However, from the looks of things, that will not be enough to appease the local ganja coalition’s desire to have the weed decriminalised and the laws repealed.
Attorney-at-law Lord Anthony Gifford, a co-founder of the local body, the Ganja Law Reform Coalition (GLRC), believes that it is a human rights issue which has the support of the majority of Jamaicans, and Jamaica’s hosting of the first International Cannabis Conference (ICC) at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, September 25-28, should greatly assist the process.
“The prohibition of ganja is offensive to my belief in human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Gifford told a press launch on Friday for the September conference, which is being sponsored by the New York-based Open Society Foundation (OSF), which was founded by the global investor and philanthropist George Soros with a view towards creating more tolerant societies.
Although successive governments have failed to implement a recommendation for decriminalisation, which was included in the report of a National Commission of Ganja appointed by the PJ Patterson administration in 2001, they have always expressed empathy with Jamaicans, especially young people whose future has been blighted by ganja convictions.
The Bruce Golding administration also sought to address the issue during its four-year term, setting in motion plans to transfer cases involving possession of small amounts of ganja to the petty sessions cour
Minister of National Security and Justice in that administration, Delroy Chuck, told Parliament in November 2011, that persons held with as much as eight ounces of ganja could have their cases referred to the petty sessions court for adjudication, while cases of more flagrant and indiscriminate use would continue to go to the Resident Magistrate’s court. He said that this was a calculated attempt to increase efficiencies in prosecuting and treating drug offenders.
The issue of criminal offences for using ganja was brought up in the Senate nearly one year ago by Opposition members, Arthur Williams and Tom Tavares-Finson, both attorneys-at-law, who expressed concern about the number of young men who have established criminal records for using ganja in relatively minute quantities.