‘Keep your promise or its open season’ – Rastafarians to Pres. Granger
Members of the Rastafarian community protested outside the Parliament Buildings Thursday afternoon to ensure President David Granger sticks to his promise of abolishing custodial (prison) sentence for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Waving flags of green-yellow-red, beating drums and smoking marijuana, the minority community reminded that the drug is their sacrament and laws criminalising its possession is outright discriminatory.
In August, the Head-of-State promised that modern ganja laws will be tabled when the National Assembly is reconvened.
“You can look forward to that,” he had assured.
Ras Leon Saul, a prominent leader of the Rastafarian Community, warned that “if he [President Granger] doesn’t do it, he will have to face the wrath of the people.”
“We’re here to let President Granger know that if he doesn’t keep his word, it’s open season,” Ras Saul said.
At the country’s first ever ganja march held in February 2018, Rastafarian Leaders explained that they hold more than 5000 votes and threatened to withhold it from the APNU+AFC if there are no reforms to the law.
The existing Narcotic Drugs Act of 1988, which criminalizes marijuana use, does not have discretion when dealing with matters above a certain level. It just mandates a 3-5-year jail sentence for persons caught with any amount of the substance.
The Rastafarian Community is asking to be allowed with at least 56 grammes of marijuana and seven plants in their yard.
Esther Gittens reminded that when the APNU+AFC was in the Parliamentary Opposition, they had promised that within the first 200 days of assuming the reins of Government, they would address the issue.
“Minister [Joseph] Harmon and Nicolette Henry signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with us saying that they would do something in 200 days and so far, nothing has been done,” she contended.
Nations worldwide have been taking steps to legalise or at least decriminalise the plant, with Canada being the most recent.
A Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Commission on Marijuana recommended the decriminalisation of the substance in a controlled and regulated manner.
In 2015, Jamaica amended its laws which makes possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana a petty offence that could result in a ticket but not in a criminal record.
The Parliamentary Opposition has already made it clear that its members will be allowed to make a conscious vote whenever the reforms come up for debate in the National Assembly.
Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo said he will vote in favour of the removal of custodial sentences, meaning, he prefers for persons found with the possession of small amounts of marijuana to face noncustodial sentences like community service.