JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) will be spending some $333 million over a three-year period on a public education programme, to discourage the use of marijuana among specific groups in society.
  • The campaign dubbed, ‘Ganja: Know the Facts, Know How to Act’, was officially launched during a press briefing, held at the Ministry of Health, in New Kingston, on July 9.
  • The amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act make possession of two ounces or less of ganja a non-criminal but ticketable offence.

The National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) will be spending some $333 million over a three-year period on a public education programme, to discourage the use of marijuana among specific groups in society.

This programme will target several stakeholders, with a major focus on youth, in response to the amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act, which was passed into law by the House of Representatives on February, 24, 2015.

The campaign dubbed, ‘Ganja: Know the Facts, Know How to Act’, was officially launched during a press briefing, held at the Ministry of Health, in New Kingston, on July 9.

In his address, Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, informed that research has shown that certain groups, such as adolescents, pregnant women/unborn child and people with a disposition towards mental disorders, are significantly more likely to be harmed by cannabis (ganja) misuse.

“Anecdotal evidence from physicians also points to an early onset of symptoms of psychosis. What this means is that persons who have some mental challenges are becoming sick at a very early stage and symptoms are usually more severe. This leads to further demand on the health sector for providing earlier treatment and management of these illnesses,” Dr. Ferguson said.

He added that given this knowledge, the public education campaign is coming at a most opportune time.

The Minister  noted that there will be several elements to the programme, including the involvement of media,  school programme strengthening, research, surveillance and stakeholder cooperation, including extensive activities at the community level.

“The general population needs to be made aware and to be encouraged to know all they can about the new legislation and most importantly, behavioural responsibilities in the new legislative environment,” Dr. Ferguson said.

For his part, Executive Director of the NCDA,  Michael Tucker, explained that  through the campaign, the Council is aiming to reduce by 30 per cent, the number of persons arrested by the police for possession  of over two ounces of ganja in public, by the end of 2017.

In addition, the NCDA is also seeking to reduce by 30 per cent, the caseload of the criminal courts for possession of ganja by the end of 2017 and to decrease by 15 per cent, the number of students aged 13-18 who start smoking ganja while still in school.

“The reality is, smoking and/or use of ganja by particular groups is potentially damaging and can impact negatively on the health and well being of these groups,” Mr. Tucker said.

He  acknowledged that ganja has significant medicinal properties, adding that “how we manage the change from legislation to encouraging responsible use and safe implementation, are critical.”

“This information sharing will serve to keep everyone aware and apprised of the various initiatives and provisions in place to reduce or eliminate harm to special groups within the society,” Mr. Tucker said.

The amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act make possession of two ounces or less of ganja a non-criminal but ticketable offence.

Smoking of ganja in public spaces, or within five metres of such areas is prohibited,  similar to cigarettes.

Public spaces include the workplace, and any place that is accessible to the public, such as sidewalks, bus stops, restaurants, offices, educational institutions, pharmacies, hospitals, areas used by children, supermarkets, and parks.