Caricom Heads of Government have agreed to set up a Regional Commission on Marijuana to undertake a “rigorous enquiry” into the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding marijuana use in the Region.
The communiqué from the July1-4 meeting of Heads in Antigua also said that the Commission will advise whether there should be a change in the current drug classification of marijuana, “thereby making the drug more accessible for a range of users”.
The decision comes amid growing calls in the region for decriminalisation of ganja for recreational and medicinal use.
In March, Caricom Heads at a meeting in St Vincent had a spirited session on the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
According to the communiqué from that meeting, Heads of Government engaged in intense discussions on the issue of marijuana, including its medical use and aspects of the decriminalising of small quantities for recreational use. They also explored the economic benefits that might be derived from marijuana cultivation.
Several concerns were raised, especially regarding the potential public and mental health aspects of its use. The Heads recognised the need for careful in-depth research of the various implications of the measures contemplated and mandated the establishment of a regional commission to address the issues identified and any others deemed relevant in order to provide clear guidance with regard to decisions to be taken.
Following the March meeting, the Jamaican government decided to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Minister of Justice Mark Golding made the announcement on June 12 saying that Jamaica’s Dangerous Drugs Act would be formally amended.
The cabinet of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller made the decision on June 2, he said.
“Cabinet approved certain changes to the law relating to ganja. These relate to possession of small quantities of ganja for personal use, the smoking of ganja in private places and the use of ganja for medical-medicinal purposes,” he said.
“Approval has been given also to a proposal for the decriminalization of the use of ganja for religious purposes,” he said.
The move by Jamaica prompted concerns in other parts of the region that that there should be a common Caricom approach rather than unilateral action.