26 June 2016

Barbados Today reports…

Outspoken minister Ronald Jones has expressed Government’s strongest support yet for the decimalization of marijuana.

The Minister of Education today said people found with small amounts of the drug should not be jailed.

Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite has said in the past that he held no strong position on the legalization of marijuana use, but he believed Barbadians should be sent to the Drug Treatment Court programme to try to “divert them from the abuse of substances”.

However, speaking at this morning’s opening of the Teachers’ Introductory Programme at Erdiston Teachers’ Training College, Jones left no doubt where he stood on the issue.

“I agree with decriminalizing [the use of small amounts] of ganja. I don’t think that we should flood our prisons, really, for someone who is not selling and all of that, but has a small spliff,” he said.

As emphatic as he was about decriminalization of ganja, Jones made it “absolutely clear” he did not support substance abuse.     

“I want to make that point absolutely clear. I don’t believe we should alter ourselves through the ingestion of external substances. We are beautifully made, excellently created. God didn’t make a mistake.”

However, he said Barbados could not ignore the fact that drugs that were once considered illegal were being embraced “as the persistence of the manipulative voice has forced political leaders and policymakers to render to moneymakers”.

A number of countries, as well as states in the United States have passed legislation either decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana use in some form, including Jamaica where amendments to the drug law partially decriminalize small amounts of pot and pave the way for a lawful medical marijuana sector, went into effect in April 2015.

The Netherlands has long been famous for its coffeeshops –– not to be confused with normal cafes –– where smoking cannabis is legal. Marijuana products like joints and edibles are readily available, and anyone over the age of 18 can carry a personal stash of up to five grammes of the weed.

Potential revenue from legal marijuana in the United States alone could exceed US$120 billion a year, according to Mic, a US news site that caters to millennials.

In the US state of Colorado, where the sale of marijuana for recreational use became legal on January 1, 2014, the drug raked in $996,184,788 in revenue and $135 million in taxes and fees in 2015, according to data from the state’s Department of Revenue.

It was early January this year, as he addressed the launch of activities marking Drug Awareness Month at the Church of the Nazarene in Bank Hall, St Michael that Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite said he was neither for nor against legalization of marijuana.

However, he stressed that he wanted the right decision made on the issue in the interest of Barbadians.

“We need to look at the public health consequences in every action that we take. We cannot give in to the noises,” the AG said at the time.

Brathwaite also made reference to one individual who had been remanded to prison after appearing in the Magistrate’s Court for possession of a small amount of marijuana.

“We [Government], and certainly as minister, I have sent the signal that we would rather not incarcerate individuals for having small quantities of marijuana.

“What we would like to do is to put them into the Drug Treatment Court programme and see how we can divert them from the abuse of substances,” he suggested at the time.