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Marijuana Is Our ‘Birthright,’ Jamaican Government Official Says

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A Jamaican government official declared marijuana the country’s “birthright” and called for the expedited research and development of indigenous strains on Monday.

“It is like our birthright and we cannot allow persons from outside to come and take away our birthright,” Science, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew Wheatley said, according to a government press release. “We have to position ourselves, we have to take on the mantle [and] do what we have to do… as it relates to medicinal marijuana research.”

Wheatley was delivering a speech at the signing of a memorandum of understanding, which established an agreement between the Jamaican Medical Cannabis Corporation and the National Foundation for the Development of Science and Technology. The agreement stipulates that both entities must develop a program aimed at identifying, isolating and conserving “the local strains of cannabis for medicinal use.”

The press release noted that Jamaica has “some of the best or finest marijuana strains in the world,” including “Jamaican Lamb’s Breath (or Lamb’s Bread) and Marley’s Collie.”

“This project has the potential to catapult the island as the lead expert in medicinal cannabis use, which is a game changer. The agreement is another advancement in cementing the solid framework for Jamaica utilizing science and technology to energize, innovate and empower, [which] changes the game.”

Jamaica effectively decriminalized marijuana possession and established a limited medical cannabis program in 2015, but some farmers complained that the licensing fees were too steep, inhibiting the production of cannabis for research or therapeutic purposes, USA Today reported.

Wheatley isn’t the only Jamaican official eager to move faster on medical marijuana.

Earlier this month, Jamaican Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw said the country would benefit demonstrably if it fully legalized marijuana and hemp.

“Jamaica cannot afford to miss this boat,” Shaw said, according to The Gleaner. “Where there is no vision, the people perish, so we must change our mindset and get ready for success. We must be bold while ensuring we meet all of our international obligations.”

On Monday, Shaw said that he was working with the country’s Ministry of Health and the Cannabis Licensing Authority “to move faster and more aggressively to get up to the level of world competition.” The official has pointed to the potential economic benefits of establishing a regulated retail system, which he argued would attract tourism and help local farmers.

Last month, as Canadian lawmakers started wrapping up their debate over a legalization bill that ultimately passed last week, Shaw met with cannabis businesses in that country in order to learn how to improve Jamaica’s program and discuss investment opportunities. A government press release said the minister was “extremely pleased with the strategy of working with Health Canada to ensure that Jamaica meets all the requirements to provide value-added products to the Canadian market.”

“This provided great insight into how Government can play a strong role in developing the cannabis industry,” the press release stated.

Canada’s Marijuana Legalization Bill Gets Final Approval From Lawmakers

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Kyle Jaeger is an LA-based contributor to Marijuana Moment. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE, and attn.

Politics

O’Rourke And Cruz Clash On Marijuana And Drugs At Senate Debate

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Candidates in one of the most contentious U.S. Senate races in the country this year clashed about the issues of marijuana legalization and drug policy reform during a debate on Friday night.

“I want to end the war on drugs and specifically want to end the prohibition on marijuana,” Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke said in response to an attack on his drug policy record from Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, whom he is seeking to unseat in November.

During one of the most heated exchanges of the hour-long debate, the GOP incumbent slammed O’Rourke for sponsoring an amendment as an El Paso city councilman in 2009 that called for a debate on legalizing drugs as a possible solution to violence along the Mexican border.

“I think it would be a profound mistake to legalize all narcotics and I think it would hurt the children of this country,” Cruz argued.

He also criticized a bill the Democrat filed in Congress to repeal a law that reduces highway funding for states that don’t automatically suspend drivers licenses for people convicted of drug offenses. “That’s a real mistake and it’s part of pattern,” he said.

“There’s a consistent pattern when it comes to drug use, that in almost every single instance, Congressman O’Rourke supports more of it.”

Calling the issue “personal to me,” Cruz spoke about his older sister, who died of a drug overdose.

“To be clear, I don’t want to legalize heroin and cocaine and fentanyl,” O’Rourke countered.

“What I do want to ensure is that where, in this country, most states have decided that marijuana will legal at some form—for medicinal purposes or recreational purposes or at a minimum be decriminalized—that we don’t have another veteran in this state, prescribed an opioid because the doctor at the VA would rather prescribe medicinal marijuana but is prohibited by law from doing that,” he said.

Enumerating other potential beneficiaries of cannabis reform, the Democrat also referenced an “older woman with fibromyalgia” and “an African-American man, because more likely than not, that’s who will be arrested for possession of marijuana, to rot behind bars, instead of enjoying his freedom and the opportunity to contribute to the greatness of this country.”

Cruz, who called O’Rourke, “one of the leading advocates in the country for legalizing marijuana,” said that he thinks ending cannabis prohibition “is actually a question on which I think reasonable minds can differ.”

“I’ve always had a libertarian bent myself,” he said. “I think it ought to be up to the states. I think Colorado can decide one way. I think Texas can decide another.”

But despite his support for letting states set their own cannabis laws, which he also voiced during his failed candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Cruz hasn’t cosponsored a single piece of legislation during his time in the Senate that would scale back federal marijuana prohibition.

Earlier in the debate, the two sparred over the killing this month of Botham Jean, an African-American man shot in his own apartment by a Dallas police officer, a subject about which O’Rourke recently made headlines by calling out in a fiery speech to a black church.

Marijuana In Texas: Where Ted Cruz And Beto O’Rourke Stand On Legalization

Photo courtesy of NBC News.

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Politics

Lawmaker Pushes For Marijuana Legalization In Kenya

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A Kenyan lawmaker is introducing legislation to legalize marijuana nationwide.

Member of Parliament Kenneth Okoth wrote a letter to the National Assembly speaker on Friday, requesting help to prepare the legislation so that it can be published.

The bill would decriminalize cannabis possession and use, clear criminal records of those with prior cannabis-related convictions, enact a legal and regulated commercial sales program and impose “progressive taxation measures” in order to “boost economic independence of Kenya and promote job creation.”

Currently, marijuana (or “bhang,” as it’s locally known) is illegal in Kenya—as it is in most of Africa.

Another provision of the draft legislation concerns “research and policy development.” Okoth wants the country to conduct studies on the medical, industrial, textile and recreational applications of cannabis. And that research would have a “focus on the preservation of intellectual property rights for Kenyan research and natural heritage, knowledge, and our indigenous plant assets,” according to the letter.

“It’s high time Kenya dealt with the question of marijuana like we do for tobacco, miraa, and alcohol,” Okoth wrote on Facebook.

“Legalize, regulate, tax. Protect children, eliminate drug cartels, reduce cost of keeping petty offenders in jail. Promote research for medical purposes and protect our indigenous knowledge and plants before foreign companies steal and patent it all.”

Okoth’s push for legalization in Kenya comes days after South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled that individuals can grow and use marijuana for personal purposes. The court determined that prohibition violated a person’s right to privacy, effectively legalizing cannabis in the country.

It’ll take a while for Okoth’s bill to move forward. The legislation will need cabinet approval, then it must be published so that all interested parties can review the proposal before it enters into parliamentary debates. Whether Okoth’s fellow lawmakers will embrace the legislation is yet to be seen.

Don’t Legalize Marijuana, UN Drug Enforcement Board Warns Countries

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Governor Signs Marijuana Legalization Bill, Making History In US Territory

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With a governor’s signature on Friday, the latest place to legalize marijuana in the U.S. isn’t a state. It’s the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)—a tiny Pacific territory with a population of just over 50,000.

Under the new law signed by Gov. Ralph Torres (R), adults over 21 years of age will be able to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana, as well as infused products and extracts. Regulators will issue licenses for cannabis producers, testing facilities, processors, retailers, wholesalers and lounges. Home cultivation of a small number of plants will be allowed.

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.

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