U.S. OK With Jamaica’s Marijuana Decriminalization


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A proposal to vastly reform Jamaica’s marijuana laws already has the support of the nation’s governing cabinet and appears poised to pass its Senate. Now, a top American official has weighed in, saying that it’s fine with the U.S. if Jamaica wants to revise its own marijuana laws.

William Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, said, “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 [international drug control treaties] and that is to reduce the damage, to reduce the harm and eventually to reduce the abuse of these products.”

The Jamaican proposal would decriminalize possession of up to two ounces of ganja and create a system of licenses and permits to regulate a legal industry for medical marijuana.

While making it clear that Jamaica can set its own laws, Brownfield said that American law enforcement would continue to go after marijuana being smuggled into the U.S. from the island nation. “We will request and expect complete co-operation from law enforcement authorities of the Government of Jamaica in eliminating this sort of trafficking,” he said.

Brownfield previously made headlines by calling for a flexible interpretation of the three international drug control treaties, to which the U.S. and Jamaica are party to.

“How could I, a representative of the government of the United States of America, be intolerant of a government that permits any experimentation with legalization of marijuana if two of the 50 states of the United States of America have chosen to walk down that road?” Brownfield asked in October, just prior to the legalization votes in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C.

Historically, the U.S. has pressured other countries to maintain the prohibitionist approach under international drug control treaties. But now that a total of four U.S. states and the nation’s capital have voted to legalize marijuana, it’s increasingly difficult for the U.S. to tell other countries not to move forward with reforms. The U.S., for example, did not object when Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize and regulate marijuana in 2013.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Marijuana.com. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)

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