Jamaica Marijuana Law Now In Effect, But Arrests And Even Police Killings May Continue

Ramiz Parchment

Earlier this year, Jamaica passed a landmark marijuana law known as the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015. The marijuana legislation now decriminalizes possession of two ounces or less of marijuana, making it a JMD$500 (US$4) ticketable offense, payable within a 30-day period.

With the marijuana legislation now enforceable since yesterday, concerns still linger about police brutality among the young in the Jamaican society. Many believe that police brutality will still reign supreme, especially within the garrisons, despite the passing of the new law.

The names Mario Deane, Oshane Dothlyn, and Garfield Coburn are still splashed across headlines throughout the Jamaican media, highlighting carelessness and the deadly use of force by the Jamaican cops.

Mario Deane and Oshane Dothlyn were killed while detained by cops for possession of marijuana. Garfield Coburn was shot by police after they attempted to arrest him for possession of marijuana. All three were arrested for possession of marijuana in quantities that are now just payable by a small fine.

Many are still skeptical that cops will not use marijuana as a scapegoat to arrest young males within Jamaican garrisons.

Many believe that the cop would not have been charged for the murder of Garfield Coburn had it not been caught on amateur video. Three members of the Jamaican Constabulary Force have been charged for manslaughter in the Mario Deane case, while Oshane Dothlyn's body may be exhumed after a ruling from the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) found nobody criminally responsible for his death.

Jamaica could be on the brink of an economic and social change because of the landmark marijuana legislation. However, it could easily be another false dawn -- one highlighted by U.S. President Barack Obama during his trip to Jamaica, where he discussed the push for legalization in both the U.S. and Jamaica.

"I have to tell you that it's not a silver bullet because, first of all, if you are legalizing marijuana, how do you deal with other drugs and how do you draw the line."

Dr. K'Adamawe K'nife, lecturer at the Mona School of Business & Management at the University of the West Indies, argues that the new marijuana new legislation is just a very small step of what could be a very profitable route for Jamaica. However, it may not be enough.

"We need to focus on the non-medical approaches such as aromatherapy, the nutritional value, integrating ganja use into tourism and wellness, because if you look at the ganja cafés and dispensaries in Europe and the United States, ganja is not just sold there for smoking, they have food and drinks. I can buy my shoes there for US$70 because the canvas comes from cannabis, so it would be ridiculous to just focus on medical marijuana."

[Image via Herald Tribune]