KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — A ruling party lawmaker is urging Jamaica's Parliament to decriminalize possession of small quantities of marijuana for personal use.
Sen. Dennis Meadows, a deputy general secretary of the Jamaica Labor Party, issued a statement on Saturday saying that relaxing laws against marijuana cigarettes — commonly referred to as "spliffs" — would free up the island's courts and police to focus on violent street crime and harder drugs.
"What I am advocating is that ganja, at the level of spliffs for private use, be treated similarly to a traffic ticket," Meadows said.
Meadows told the Senate on Friday that pursuing convictions for possession of small amounts of marijuana "is only serving to criminalize our already marginalized young men and women, thereby creating a reservoir of hopelessness."
Meadows pointed out that the National Commission on Ganja — as marijuana is known — recommended decriminalizing small amounts of pot for personal use.
Previous efforts in Jamaica to legalize small amounts of marijuana have been scuttled because officials feared they would violate international treaties and bring sanctions from Washington.
The U.S. has spent millions of dollars trying to eradicate the crop on Jamaica and has consistently opposed efforts to loosen its marijuana laws.
Jamaica is among the world's biggest exporters of marijuana. Rastafarians on the island also say smoking it is a part of their religion that brings them closer to the divine.