With the Jamaican Senate recently passing the Dangerous Drug Amendment Bill, fears remain that the federal government of the United States may halt further plans of legalizing marijuana should the Jamaican government expand their proposed marijuana reform.
The marijuana bill is now expected to be taken to the House of Representatives in March 2015 for it to be deliberated on. However, In the past, the federal branch of the U.S government have been unsupportive of the legalization of marijuana market within the United States.
In November 2014, President Obama’s nominated U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch to replace current Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder. The nominee reiterated that she does not support the legalization of marijuana.
However, with many U.S states either legalizing or pushing to legalize the marijuana market, the Jamaican government is adamant not to be left behind. Despite that, they are fully aware that they thread a steady line between benefiting from marijuana reform and angering their largest trading partners (the United States) and current international treaties.
There are three treaties that regulate the consumption, manufacture, research and trafficking of narcotics. The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol, Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, and United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs, and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.
Jamaica is a signator of all three treaties.
For many years, Jamaica has been a transhipment hub for narcotics flowing in from South and Central America into the United States. Questions still remains whether the Jamaican government will be in negotiation with the U.S. should the island state develop further plans of marijuana reform.
According to the Counselor for Public Affairs at the US Embassy in Kingston, Joshua Polacheck, the United States will not discourage the Jamaican government from implementing its own laws and regulation on the local marijuana market as long as it is in accordance of current international treaties.
“The U.S position on Jamaica’s ganja legalization is as long as Jamaica respect its international commitment, the three United Nations Conventions on drugs, its domestic drug control regime is a sovereign decision and the U.S. welcomes debates and discussion on the drug issue.”
Delving further into the issue, Polacheck states that the United States government is not bothered by decriminalization of small quantities of marijuana consumed but rather on the the transshipment and corruption brought on from trafficking.
“Our focus with the Jamaican security forces is not on small scale consumption here in Jamaica but on the transnational violent criminals who spread violence and corruption across the hemisphere, those are the people we are worried about.”
However, these comments contradict earlier statements made by a senior member of the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). The assistant secretary of (INL), William R Brownfield, stated that Jamaica is threading a dangerous line with potential legalization of the marijuana market.
“I would not necessarily walk down the same road that some in the Government and Parliament of Jamaica are choosing to walk.”
He added that, “I can assure you that, from the US side, we will continue to pursue maximum efforts to prevent any import in the United States and we will request and expect complete co-operation from law enforcement authorities of the Government of Jamaica in eliminating this sort of trafficking.”
However, he maintained that the marijuana market within Jamaica is a sovereignty issue and that as long as Jamaica continues to remain in accordance to the three international narcotics treaties then there will be no problem.
“That said, my position was quite clearly stated in the beginning; we must have tolerance and accept that different countries will address their drug issues in different ways so long as they are committed to the fundamental purposes of the three international conventions and that is to reduce the damage, to reduce the harm and eventually to reduce the abuse of these products, including cannabis, or marijuana, or ganja to the citizens of the world”
Unlike Uruguay and Amsterdam, Jamaica’s push to legalize marijuana will have a direct effect on domestic policies and international law and with an upcoming summit in 2016 Jamaica’s Legalization of marijuana will continue to be a topic that will foster discussion not just for Jamaica but also for the United States.