Tag Archives: Bill

Passage of Ganja Bill doesn’t mean free-for-all


MINISTER of National Security Peter Bunting has warned that amendments to the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act, decriminalising the use of ganja, does not create a free-for-all in growing, transporting, dealing in, or exporting the drug.

“The security forces will continue to rigorously enforce Jamaican laws, consistent with our international treaty obligations,” Bunting told the House as it debated the Bill, Tuesday.

He said that the Bill has been drafted to ensure compliance with Jamaica’s international treaty obligations, and signals its strengthened resolve to combat organised crime by increasing the cost for offences involving transnational illegal trafficking in all forms of prohibited drugs.

He said that Jamaican law enforcement agencies have worked hard with its international partners to make significant inroads against narcotics trafficking and transnational crime organisations over the last 15 years, and there will be no relaxation in that regard.

He added that Jamaica recognises that monitoring, reporting and enforcement mechanisms must be implemented to safeguard against the licensed activity being used as pretext for illicit drug trade or to contribute to financing criminal enterprises.

He said that these reforms would be supported by a regulatory framework to be developed and included in the Bill’s regulations.

Responding, Opposition spokesman on health, Dr Kenneth Baugh, said that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is on record supporting the decriminalisation of small amounts of ganja and the removal of custodial sentences and records of a crime committed by using the drug.

He said that the JLP agreed and accepted that there is a potential industry in medicinal marijuana. However, he said that legalisation have raised unresolved issues in the party, including geo-politics, as international agreements and obligations have not changed.

“More public education is needed on the benefits and adverse effects of the recreational use of marijuana. There must be a legal framework for the expanded legal use of marijuana,” Dr Baugh suggested.

Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Delroy Chuck recalled that in 2011 the JLP did propose that there should be a scheduling of the amount of ganja for which persons could be charged and prosecuted in the Resident Magistrate’s Court.

“We did this because we recognised that there was a high level of injustice imposed on so many of our young poor, inner-city young men,” Chuck said.

However, he noted that, after the JLP Administration had done so, a number of foreign diplomats contacted him to express their concern.

“It took a great amount of explanation to say that we were not legalising, we were just ensuring that where a small amount is used, they don’t have to go to court, as they can just pay the fine like a road traffic offence,” he explained.

Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton said that while, the cannabis industry has been developing organically, every effort must now be made for it to achieve its full potential.

“This means adopting a strong commercial approach which, based on entrepreneurial practices that are market-driven, is broad-based and results in value-added products for both goods and service,” he explained.

But, Opposition MP Pearnel Charles felt that it was a “sad day” for Jamaicans to have the Bill passed in its current form.

“It is classified as a dangerous drug, and I believe it should not be (passed) after a few hours of discussion one evening in this Parliament,” he reasoned.

Charles suggested that the Bill should have been sent to a joint select committee, which would allow for public scrutiny of the provisions.

Government member from St Elizabeth North Eastern, Raymond Pryce, said that he did not agree with the need for Rastafarians to satisfy the minister of justice that they were members of that faith in order to get exemptions to use the drug as a sacrament, when other religions do not have to.

Pryce said that he is hoping that the stipulation be removed as soon as possible.

Another Government MP, Dr Dayton Campbell, questioned how would the medical and security experts determine what is a safe level for smoking ganja.

Campbell also suggested that some people were mistaking medical use for personal use.

“It must be crystal clear that we are not encouraging persons to just get up and go and smoke marijuana…but how do we work with them to ensure that we prevent them from going down that road?” he asked.

The Bill was passed without any amendment in the House of Representatives. However, there were five minor amendments when it was passed in the Senate on February 6.

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Draft EU Referendum Bill is David Cameron’s final forfeit to Eurosceptics


English: David Cameron is a British politician...
English: David Cameron is a British politician, Leader of the Conservative Party (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: David Cameron's picture on the 10 Dow...
English: David Cameron’s picture on the 10 Downing Street website (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Rt Hon David Cameron MP speaking at t...
English: Rt Hon David Cameron MP speaking at the Conservative Middle East Council Annual Gala Dinner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David Cameron has ruled out any further concessions to his hardline Eurosceptic MPs as they prepared to defy him by staging a Commons revolt today.

The Prime Minister tried to end the damaging impression that he is being pushed around by rebel Conservative backbenchers yesterday, as his party rushed out a Draft European Union (Referendum) Bill.

The early version of the proposed legislation would promise that, before 31 December 2017, the public would be asked: “Do you think that the UK should remain a member of the European Union?” But the Bill, likely to be introduced by a Tory MP as a Private Member’s Bill, stands little chance of becoming law because of Labour and Liberal Democrat opposition and lack of Parliamentary time.

Mr Cameron is aiming to remind the public of his pledge to hold a referendum by 2017 and limit the scale of the Tory revolt today, when MPs are expected to vote on an amendment regretting the absence of a referendum Bill in the Queen’s Speech.

Publication of the draft Bill has persuaded some Eurosceptics not to vote against the Speech. But hardliners said the Prime Minister had not gone far enough and rejected pressure to back down.

Philip Hollobone, Tory MP for Kettering, predicted that about 100 Tories would support the amendment and said Mr Cameron should overrule Nick Clegg by bringing in the Bill as a government measure – even if that ended the Coalition. He admitted: “It is undignified and there is some chaos in Number 10 this week.”

John Baron, who tabled the amendment, said the Bill was “a small step in the right direction”, but added: “Number 10 knows that a Private Member’s Bill could fail.”

Tory officials played down the rebellion, saying backbenchers and ministerial aides had a free vote. They also insisted a backbench Bill would have a chance of becoming law. Senior Tory sources said Mr Cameron would not make fresh concessions to his critics, however. “This is our red line, we are not going to give them any more ground,” one said, citing the public support for Mr Cameron’s stance on the EU from US President Barack Obama on Monday. “We’ve now got Obama and this Bill. It’s like building a big dam.”

Speaking during a three-day tour of Americae, Mr Cameron denied he had been “panicked” into bringing forward the draft Bill. “When all the dust has settled I think that people will be able to see that there is one party, the Conservative Party, offering that in/out referendum and two other mainstream parties, the Liberal Democrats and Labour, who oppose an in/out referendum,” he said.

The Tories tried to turn the spotlight away from their tensions over Europe. Grant Shapps, the Tory party chairman, said: “Labour and the Liberal Democrats have shown complete disdain for the views of the British people in denying them a say in a referendum. When will they have the courage to follow this government’s lead?”

Some Labour figures, including the shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, believe the party should consider matching the Tories’ referendum pledge. Keith Vaz, Dennis Skinner and John Cryer, called for a change of policy at the weekly meeting of Labour MPs on Monday. But the Shadow Cabinet agreed yesterday to oppose the draft Bill.

Douglas Alexander, the shadow Foreign Secretary, right, said: “Our judgment is that the national interest today is served by a laser-like focus on stability, growth and jobs. This latest step has more to do with David Cameron trying to get his party back in line rather than getting the economy back on track.”

Lib Dems accused the Tories of blaming Mr Clegg’s party to distract attention from their own divisions. A senior Lib Dem source said: “The ink is barely dry on the legislation passed by this Coalition Government that gives the British people a guarantee in law that there will be a referendum next time power is transferred from Westminster to Brussels.

“Now the Tories have changed their mind and want to reopen the issue all over again. They want to talk about their obsession with Europe but then blame the Lib Dems. While the Tories bang on and on about Europe, the Lib Dems will concentrate on jobs and growth.”

Nigel Farage, leader of Ukip, said the draft Bill “does not have the weight of law because no parliament can bind its successor.”