Hanson not surprised after Jamaica ranks 15 out of 30 on new global drug policy index

Jamaica has ranked fifteenth in a new index comparing countries’ drug laws based on health and human rights.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy launched the new Global Drug Policy Index (GDPI) on Monday (November 8).

The index breaks away from conventional measures such as, number of arrests made and hectares of drug crops destroyed.

Instead the new index aims to measure the extent to which national drug policies align with the core UN principles of human rights, health, and development.

Speaking on Jamaica’s ranking, local representative and Vice Chair of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), Vicki Hanson, noted that the country’s position was in keeping with the fact that little had been done in terms of development, pointing to ongoing issues surrounding the ganja industry.

Hanson said Jamaica still lagged behind in developmental policies, adding that it was high time that the cannabis policy was pulled from under the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act of 2015.

“When you look at the index and the index speaks about development, we score at 72/100. This is in part fuelled by the fact that we continue to destroy ganja fields, even fields of licensed growers,” Hanson said.

“By removing ganja from the Dangerous Drugs Act, we can begin to develop a regulated policy. So, it is not a free for all but much like how you would have policies for how we use tobacco and alcohol,” added Hanson.

When asked about the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) which was established in 2015 to regulate Jamaica’s legal ganja and hemp industry, Hanson said that the agency was not effective in its current form.

“The CLA see themselves not as a regulator for development of the industry but as a regulator for preventing inversion and diversion. For them you don’t want to encourage illicit activity- which we don’t want. However at the same time you are bringing an industry out of an illicit state into a legal state. So some of the regulations such as 6 foot fencing and chain link fencing will not be able to be accommodated by your traditional growers, so they are not helped by the regulations and as such are left out,” Hanson explained.  

Hanson further said the index indicated Jamaica had a lot of work to do in the drug law reform space.

However it is not just Jamaica, Former Prime Minister of New Zealand and chairwoman of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Helen Clark noted that even the countries that ranked at the top of the index were not doing as well as they should.    

“The index rightly paints a bleak picture. No one country deserves to feel good about itself when it comes to drug policy” Clark said.

“The destructive power of punitive and stigmatising drug laws continues to impoverish communities, continues to prevent people who use drugs from accessing life-saving services, and drives countless acts of police brutality and state violence in general,’ she added.

Countries included in the index were the UK, Australia and Canada.

However, the US and EU states except Portugal were not included.

Norway topped the list while Indonesia, Uganda and Brazil were at the bottom of the ranking.