KINGSTON, Jamaica, CMC – The Jamaica parliament has passed legislation allowing for the removal of criminal records against the names of persons convicted for possession of, or smoking, small quantities of marijuana.
The Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) (Amendment) Act, also adjusts the rehabilitation period prescribed in the 1988 legislation and further provides for expungement of criminal records for other minor offences.
National Security Minister, Peter Bunting, said the passage of the legislation will enable thousands of Jamaicans to access gainful employment because their criminal records will be expunged.
“We are talking about the thousands and thousands of Jamaicans… as with a criminal record, there are many jobs they cannot get and many countries they cannot visit,” he stated.
Bunting said the next step by the government is to make the possession of small quantities of ganja a non-arrestable offence.
He said that focus is also being placed on making provisions for the use of marijuana or ganja by religious groups. “This Bill that will deal with that second step has already been drafted. It will go to legislative committee for some final tweaking,” he said, noting that Cabinet has approved a regulatory framework to oversee the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Bunting told legislators that despite the changes being made, the Portia Simpson Miller government will continue to enforce the law and obligations under various international treaties.
The Bill was passed in the Senate in July, 2014.
Meanwhile, legislation has been drafted to amend the Dangerous Drugs Act, as the country moves towards establishing the medical marijuana and industrial hemp industries.
Justice Minister Mark Golding, said while the amended law will observe Jamaica’s anti-narcotics obligations, the industries will operate under license.
He emphasized that the objective of modifying the Dangerous Drugs Act, is to lay the foundations for the establishment of regulatory regimes to govern the cultivation and use of ganja for medical and scientific purposes, as well as non-medical industrial hemp.
“It must be emphasized that these proposals must be consistent with the existing requirements of the anti-narcotics treaties to which Jamaica is a party,” Golding said, adding that it is “significant that the regulated utilization of ganja and industrial hemp for the specific purposes is indicated by the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.”
He noted that the UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs permits signatories to take such “legislative and administrative measures as may be necessary…subject to the provisions of this Convention, to limit exclusively to medical and scientific purposes, the production, manufacture, export, import, distribution of trade in, use and possession of drugs.”
While pointing to hemp industries in the European Union (EU), Golding said the UN Convention “expressly allows the cultivation, processing of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes, subject to the control measures which State parties are obliged to put in place.”
A Licensing Authority will also be established to govern the licensing processes for participation in the medicinal ganja industry, while the industrial hemp industry will be similarly subject to a licensing system. The amended Dangerous Drugs Act will enable the making of regulations for the licensing authority.