The recently amended Dangerous Drugs Act commonly referred to as The Ganja Law will take effect on Wednesday (April 15).
As of tomorrow persons found with two ounces or less of marijuana will no longer be subject to arrest or detention by the police, but instead could be issued a ticket for $500 payable within a 30-day period at any revenue centre.
Under the new amendments, a person who is ticketed for smoking ganja in public or for possession of two ounces or less of marijuana and fails to pay the ticket will be required to attend a Petty Sessions Court, and may be ordered to do community service or pay a fine of $2,000.
The Ministry of Justice has made it clear that a conviction for failing to pay a ticket will be recorded on the offender’s criminal record.
Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding is expected to bring the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015 into operation by a notice published in the gazette.
This follows the Governor General’s assent of the far-reaching piece of legislation.
In addition, a person who is found in possession of two ounces or less, who is under the age of 18 years, or who is 18 years or older and appears to the police to be dependent of ganja will be referred to the National Council on Drug Abuse for counselling. The offender is also required to pay the ticket.
With the implementation of the so-called ganja law, the smoking of ganja will be legally permitted in places that are licensed for the smoking of ganja for medical or therapeutic purposes.
The new law will also permit adherents of the Rastafarian faith to smoke ganja for sacramental purposes in locations registered as places of Rastafarian worship.
The Justice Ministry has made it clear that the possession of more than two ounces of ganja remains a criminal offence and offenders can be arrested, charged, tried in court, and, if found guilty, sentenced to a fine or to imprisonment or both.
The conviction will also be recorded on that person’s criminal record.
The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015 was passed by both Houses of Parliament in February this year.
US President Barack Obama publicly endorsed the decriminalization of small quantities of ganja during his visit to Kingston, Jamaica last week.
Even while warning against any move towards the legalization of the weed, the US president told a youth forum at the Mona Campus, University of the West Indies on April 9 that the policy of locking up ganja smokers and other drug users had been counterproductive.
“The so-called war on drugs has been so heavy in emphasising incarceration that it has been counterproductive. You have young people who did not engage in violence, who get very long penalties and are placed in prison and then are rendered economically unemployable, or almost pushed into the underground economy and learn crime more effectively in prison,” Barack Obama said.
Similar arguments have been repeatedly used by Bruce Golding, National Security Minister Peter Bunting and other Government as well as Opposition spokesmen in pushing the decriminalisation law.