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No ganja worries - Review won't change ganja laws, Tufton says after criticisng 'rush' to pass popular law

Published:Wednesday | June 29, 2016 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson
Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton makes his way to the Parliament to make his presentation to the Sectoral Debate yesterday.
A ganja spliff

Dr Christopher Tufton, health minister, is clarifying that no legislative changes should be expected from a "comprehensive review" that he says is needed of changes to the Dangerous Drugs Act, which relaxed the usage of ganja in Jamaica.

Speaking in the House of Representatives yesterday, Tufton criticised the previous administration, saying that the amendments pursued last year were "rushed and not thought out carefully".

Noting that there was lot of "hype" around the changes, he pointed to an education campaign that a ganja subcommittee of the previous Cabinet had accepted, which he said did not get the necessary funding from ministries.

"Of the $321 million needed for this comprehensive education campaign, only 20 per cent was received and expended," he said, while making his contribution to the Sectoral Debate.

According to Tufton, funding came from the health ministry and the Embassy of the United States in Kingston through that country's international narcotics legislation.

To bolster his intent for a review, Tufton told the House that 90 per cent of adolescents seen by the National Council on Drug Abuse in its drug treatment programme were referred "due to problems associated with marijuana use". In addition, island-wide surveillance in drug treatment centres reportedly showed that 50 per cent of clients were being treated for marijuana use.

"Based on the evidence presented here, there needs to be a comprehensive re-look and implementation of the amendments and the impact it is having on the health service," he argued. He also said that funding should be urgently put in place to ensure a robust prevention and control programme.

However, following his presentation, Tufton sought to clarify that no change to the amendments should be expected.

"I am not proposing changes to the amendment. I am proposing that we follow through on what was proposed under the previous administration, which has not been followed through after many months," he told The Gleaner.

Earlier this month, Dr Winston De La Haye, chief medical officer in the Ministry of Health, said the inadequacy of the country's mental-health treatment and rehabilitation infrastructure was another major worry in light of the changes to the ganja law.

"One in 10 adults who use cannabis will become addicted. However, one in two adolescents who use it will become addicted unless something is done," De La Haye shared at a Gleaner Editors' Forum. There, he also stressed the need for public education campaigns.

Last year, the Parliament passed the ganja law which, among other things, decriminalised the possession of ganja of two ounces or less.

The law also allowed for the establishment of a ganja industry to be regulated by the Cannabis Licensing Authority.

A percentage of the funds accumulated from application fees and permits charged by the Cannabis Licensing Authority is earmarked to fund public-awareness campaigns.