It was with almost amusement that I read the article entitled ‘Youth Crime down in California after Ganja is legalised’ published in the sunday gleaner, December 2, 2012.
For years Jamaican grass root musicians, hailing and representing depressed and marginalised groups and even a politician (probably the only time these two groups will ever agree) have been calling for ‘legalisation of marijuana’, artistes from the famed Bob Marley, Sizzla etc have all called for an ease on marijuana. It was a well known fact that so many youth have had their entire future stymied by marijuana possession. In Jamaica, possession of marijuana can get you up to 18 months hard labour in one of Jamaica’s hardened prisons, among hardened criminals whose system has very little time and/or resources to ensure that their stay in a Jamaican prision is restorative or reconditioning.
I found it interesting and one of the reasons I appreciate first world, that they actually do research and have their research guide their policies. In October 2010, Mr. Terminator and Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation reducing the crime of the possession of an ounce of marijuana from a misdeameanor to an infraction. From the statistics presented in the article, published in the Huffington Post and carried by the Jamaica Gleaner December 2, 2012, Founder of the Coalition for Drug Free California, Dr. Paul Chabot must be very uncomfortable in his own pants, afterall, his statment that the legislation would send the wrong message to kids and communicaties…received a big huge ‘F’ for fony, failure, foolishness, fake!!!
In just one year of being enacted, there was a whopping 20% (let me spell that out) TWENTY PERCENT reduction in juvenile crime plunging the underage crime rate to the lowest level since the state started keeping records in 1954. The year before the legislation was signed, youth was responsible for 64% of all drug arrests, a year after this had dropped to 46%.
The 2012 UNDP Caribbean Human Development report, awarded Jamaica another incredulous lead, Jamaica has the highest number of youth convicted of crime. Unlike the success of the Bolt, the real life Flash Gordon, this is not something we should even tolerate. The report went on to say that fighting youth crime costs the country directly an amount of US$529million or JA$46.5Billion per annum, and that because of youth crime Jamaica Land We Love, loses as much as US$4.3Million annually in investments and US$95million from Tourism.
These reports are done, but are they ever read or used to influence policy. Doubt it very much.
According to the Constabulary Communication Network, the number of youths being arrested for murder is on the increase, in 2000 it was 2% or 19 of the 887; in 2001 this grew to 3% and last year it jumped to 4% or 44 of 1,045. For the four year period 1999 – 2002 1, 639 youth were arrested for assaulting and wounding. The Planning Institute of jamaica in their Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica say that 629 murders were committed by youth under 17 years between 1996 and 2001.
Eventhough we have allowed the international funders to pay our people to burn out and destroy ganja, despite its tested, researched and proven benefits such as for clothing, beauty and skin care, medicinal, will we pay attention the the research out of California, which, according the article in the Huffinton Post provides information that in one year of reducing marijuana possession from a misdeameanor to an infraction, there has been a 16%, 26% and 50% reduction in violent crimes, homicide and drug arrests respectively?
Jamaica should follow suit, decriminalising marijuana. Funds saved being directed into fighting crime should be re-directed to the support of sustainable and accountable programmes aimed at reaching marginalised youth and not just youth who usually attend to such initiatives, but the youth who are so marginalised they do not believe these initiatives to be for them; Activities and data from NGOs and Civic groups are to be collected and closely monitored regionally, the impact and support given to governance and social development by the NGOs and these groups and other big hearted people should be recognised, quantified, quality/sustainability-checked and supported; Community centres and civic groups cardoning the youth, listening and encourage dialogue around their issues as well as their own solution to same is imperative.
The church should get involved and forget their un-christian biases, it was the Jesus Christ they claimed to worship that kept friends with what would be theives, murderers and battyman of today. NGOs should stop the turfism over scarce resources and utilise each others collective skills for a greater change that eventually ensures that everyone has a job and a brighter future and not just themselves, above the people for which they ‘claim’ to advocate.
We have to empower people to be part of their own solution, ‘to be the change they wish to see’, unfortunately, at first we need our leaders, gunmen, activists, theives, doctors, business owners, bankers etc, to open their eyes…killing the chicken will soon produce no more golden eggs.