Jamaica is rethinking its marijuana laws, with the government announcing that it will decriminalise the possession of small amounts of the drug, known there as "ganja".
Minister of Justice Mark Golding said that Jamaica's Dangerous Drugs Act would be formally amended this summer.
"Cabinet approved certain changes to the law relating to ganja," he said. "These relate to possession of small quantities of ganja for personal use, the smoking of ganja in private places and the use of ganja for medical-medicinal purposes."
"Approval has been given also to a proposal for the decriminalization of the use of ganja for religious purposes," he added.
Possession of small quantities of the drug would become a non-arrestable, ticketable infraction in Jamaica resulting in a fine, said Golding, adding that "too many" youngsters in the country have landed criminal convictions after "being caught with a 'spliff.'"
Barack Obama has said that although he believes smoking marijuana is a "bad idea" he is concerned that "poor kids" get locked up for "smoking pot".
It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.
Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do.And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.
...we should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.
– Barack Obama speaking to The New Yorker Magazine.
"As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”
Ezekiel Edwards, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Criminal Law Reform Project, hailed the legalisation of cannabis in Colorado, saying it was the "beginning of the end" for prohibition at a national level. He said:
By legalizing marijuana, Colorado has stopped the needless and racially biased enforcement of marijuana prohibition laws.
Legal sales of recreational marijuana are expected to earn businesses operating inside Colorado an estimated $578 million in annual revenues, which will generate $67 million in sales taxes for the state, authorities said.