AS MAYOR OF JAMAICA’S Capital city, Kingston, and chairman of the municipal council, the Kingston and St.Andrew corporation (KSAC), I hve been faced wiht the very serious problem of controlling the spread of the use of drugs by our citizens, as well as the trafficking and sale of drugs and its severe consequences in the municipality since 2003.
It is not an easy task, but it could have been much worse.
I say this because, while my city is plagued with serious drug abuse problems, like any other major urban area, it is not a situation which we have lost control over.
In fact, the vast majority of our citizens have been never used, or probably have never had nay personal contact with hard drugs.
There are just under 200,000 jamaicans addicted to various substances, according to our NATIONAL COUNCIL ON DRUG ABUSE, which is the main govenrment agency responsible for dealing with drug addiction.
And, we need to bear in mind that this figure includes peopl like alcoholics, which are, probably, the largest cathegory of abusers.
The simple fact is that, while Jamaica is perceived by many as a haven for drug addicts, and some people may even painted the impression of the average Jamaican as a marijuana smoking dreadlock who is always dancing to reggae music or sea bathing - THIS IS NOT REALLY SO.
MARIJUANA, CANNABIS or GANJA, as we call it, is the most widely used illegal substance in KINGSTON. But how addictive it is and how destructive it is, we are NOT ABSOLUTELY SURE.
Many states of the United states and Europena countries, including England, have reduced the importance and the penalties attached to MARIJUANA.
And, in fact, most Jamaicans, including the head of our psychiatric department at the Unversity of the West Indies, DO NOT BELIEVE THAT MARIJUANA IS EITHER ADDICTIVE OR AS HARMFUL AS HAS BEEN SUGGESTED elsewhere.
Acccording to DR. HICKLING:
"THE OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE IS THAT FOR MOST PEOPLE WHO USE MARIJUANA IN MODERATION, IT HAS LITTLE OR NO LONG-TERM DELETERIOUS EFFECTS. I HAVE KNOWN PEOPLE TO USE OVER TWO OUNCES OF MARIJUANA PER DAY WITHOUT ANY VISIBLE CLINICAL AND MENTAL EFFECTS; WHILE IT CAN HAVE THERAPEUTIC AND BENEFICIAL EFFECTS IN SOME PEOPLE.”
But, the fact still remains that the use or sale of MARIJUANA is illegal in Jamaica and carries severe penalites including imprisonment and heavy fines and the confiscation of assents which are derived from illegal activities including drug trafficking.
The use of drugs, especially MARIJUANA, is most prononced in the resort areas of rural Jamaica or the capital city, KINGSTON, and the wider municipality of Kingston and St. Andrew which has a population of a close to one-million people out of a total Jamaican population or some 2.6 MILLION people.
The NCDA has been approaching the issue of addiction mainly through a project, which operates as a comprehensive intervention programme for substance abusers, children, adolescentsa and their families at the community level.
These Centres operte through PARTNERSHIPS WITH COMMUNITY-BASED NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS and tertiary level training instituitons.
But, the MUNICIPALITY has a growing concern about family, as breakdown in family life and poor parenting is believed to cause many negative effects on society and the use of drugs in the city.
THERE IS EVIDENCE OF OUR YOUTHS BEING DEPRESSED, PROMISCUOUS, EXHIBITING BEHAVIOURAL PROBLEMS, EXPERIMENTING WITH DRUGS, ATTEMPTING SUICIDE AND BECOMING PARENTS AT AN EARLY AGE.
THE 2006 NATIONAL SCHOOL SURVEY FOR JAMAICA REVEALED THAT AN ILLEGAL DRUG WAS USED BY 44 PER CENT OF 4,536 STUDENTS WHO WERE RANDOMLY SAMPLED ACROSS 70 SCHOOLS.
This is an area of concern.
The centres that have been created by the NATIONAL COUNCIL ON DRUG ABUSE (NCDA) along with the municipality will offer targeted interventions, which include professional councelling and support, perenting skills training, life skill training for substance abusers and adolescents and counsellor development workshops.
Our greatest challenge since the late 1970S, however, has been the threat to our city’s stability from drug trafficking.
JAMAICA has over 600 miles of coastline and over 100 UN-monitored airstrips, and an open ocean for go-fast boats.
The U.S. DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION (DEA) declared JAMAICA a mahor transhipment point for illegal narcotics iether via way stations in the country or in the movement of drugs to the Bahamas and then to the United States.
THE CITY OF KINGSTON, which is tje main commercial, industrial and population centre, is strategically located on the South-Eastern coast; which places us virtually at the centre of this action.
We have suffered badly from the targeting of us as a narcotics transhipment port, which has affected our economy and investments, as well as the wealth produced by drug traffickers has createda wealthy informatl authority with great influenceon our inner city communities, unemployed youths and corrupt public officials.
Jamaican CANNABIS PRODUCTION and EXPORT involves a home-grown product and a relatively less complex drug organisation. Those involved have not been particularly successful in evading the police.
We saw where MARIJUANA SEIZURES by the police increased from 19,777 kg in 2005 to 59,771 kg in 2006, and areas of cultivation raided by the authorities have increased from 423 hectares to 524 hectares respectively.
But, although we have had this success, there is the problem of the connection between JAMAICAN MARIJUANA TRAFFICKERS and FOREIGNERS TRAFFICKING COCAINE.
The marijuana traders started trading it to cocaine traffickers in exchange for funds which they used to finance their criminal organisations and to buy weapons and influence.
We recognize the serious problem of drug trafficking and we have placed great emphasis on providing resources to tackle it.
But, one has to understand that we have to do this at great expense to our people and their economic and social needs.
The most effective tools of the drug traffickers are weapons and violence and the results is that we end up with one of the highest murder rates in our history.
The government and the municipality continue to put in measures to ensure that our ports and airports remain free from illegal import and export of drugs and ammunition.
Because of the size of our territorial waters, there are many reports of drug smugglers from other territories in close proximity trading sophisticated guns for GANJA and COCAINE and these guns eventually find their way to the streets and into the hands of criminals.
In a recent report, the WORLD BANK declared that crime in the CARIBBEAN, most importantly in JAMAICA, is “UNDERMINING GROWTH, THREATENING HUMAN WELFARE, AND IMPEDING SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT.”
As a city, we revognize the threat of the illegal drug trade as a major deterrent to our survival as we continue to put the necessary programme and legislations in place to fight these growing monsters.
The fight against illegal drugs is not synonymous to the city of Kingston alone.
The “SUPERPOWERS” must do more to prevent the "crop" that they produce in abundance from infiltrating countries like JAMAICA and the CARIBBEAN, where, financially we cannot find the resources that are required to prevent the use of ECSTASY, HEROIN and COCAINE, which is now readily available, especially among our youths.
Therefore it is imperative that COLLECTIVELY, the FIGHT SHOULD NOT BE a KINGSTON or a CARIBBEAN FIGHT, but SHOULD BE a UNIVERSAL FIGHT.
More resources need to be provided to assist cities like Kingston.
KINGSTON has its responsibilities to ensure that our tourism is protected, and the fight against curruption is intensified at all levels of the society to effectively win the war on drugs.
DRUGS IS EVERYONE’S BUSINESS, NOT JUST THE CITY OF KINGSTON.