May 6, 2021

Caribbean urges rethink of approach in combating drug problem

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Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.07.05 AMFrom Jamaica Observer

UNITED NATIONS (CMC) — The Caribbean last Thursday joined the international community in urging a rethink to the approach taken to deal with the illegal drugs trade.

At a special United Nations General Assembly session, they “reaffirmed their commitment to tackling the pervasive challenges presented by drugs around the globe and promoting a society free of drug abuse for the well-being of all humanity”.

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 transport needs, and on providing loans to help entrepreneurs purchase fishing boats”.

Trinidad and Tobago said it was not optimistic that crop substitution would succeed in that country, since its “biggest challenges were drug use and micro-trafficking”.

Port of Spain called for an end to the use of such derogatory terms as “drug mules”.
The General Assembly opened with a round-table discussion on “cross-cutting issues: new challenges, threats and realities in preventing and addressing the world drug problem in compliance with relevant international law, including the three drug control conventions; strengthening the principle of common and shared responsibility and international co-operation”.

Several speakers raised concerns about the challenges ahead, with Jamaica’s Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith saying that her country was “experiencing practical difficulties in pursuing the use of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes”.

She said cannabis and cannabis resin were “listed in Schedules I and IV of the Single Convention and were, therefore, regarded as liable to abuse”. As such, she urged a review of the international drug control legal framework to ensure better responses to legal challenges.

On Wednesday, the unofficial holiday celebrated by marijuana enthusiasts around the world, Jamaica called for the UN to review the status of cannabis, questioning why the drug is still legally considered as dangerous as heroin under international law.

Johnson Smith said that scheduling cannabis as a dangerous drug with no medical use — a status that dates back to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs — is outdated and out of touch.

“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.

“Cannabis has been traditionally used as a folk medicine, as well as a religious sacrament by adherents to our indigenous faith, Rastafari,” she noted.

Over the three days, delegates stressed that, more than ever before, the global consensus recognises that the solution to the world drug problem lies in a “more humane, public health-oriented, human rights-compliant, evidence-based approach that addresses this issue in all its complexity,” the UN said.

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