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Caribbean Islands Urge UN to Rethink Cannabis

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The official Rastafarian sacrament has been demonized by international drug laws for too long. Several Caribbean nations had the chance to speak at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session—representatives from Jamaica, The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago all called for a new approach to cannabis and other drugs.

Jamaica’s Foreign Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, informed the session that cannabis and cannabis resin were currently listed as Schedules I and IV, which makes it ineligible for research. “We contend that the classification of cannabis under the Single Convention is an anomaly, and that the medical value of a substance must be determined by science and evidence-based analysis, above other considerations,” Johnson Smith told the UN General Assembly Thursday. “Cannabis has been traditionally used as a folk medicine, as well as a religious sacrament by adherents to our indigenous faith, Rastafari.”

Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, had recently promised to legalize cannabis for “specified purposes.” The Queen Elizabeth II of England is head of state over a number of the Caribbean islands including Jamaica, Barbados and the Bahamas. A proposed constitutional amendment is underway in Jamaica, which would replace the Queen as head of state and make the country a Republic.

A representative from the Bahamas told the session that the country is “a major transit hub for illicit drugs, where resources used to intercept criminal enterprises would be better spent on providing basic infrastructure to meet education, health and transportation needs and on providing loans to help entrepreneurs purchase fishing boats.”

The UN responded with the plan to create a “more humane, public health-oriented, human rights-compliant, evidence-based approach that addresses this issue in all its complexity.” Modern Jamaica is focusing their energies on medical cannabis and the research behind it. The Schedule I status dates back to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics where cannabis laws were conceived and enforced globally.

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