By Horace Helps
KINGSTON (Reuters) - Jamaica's parliament cleared the way for decriminalizing marijuana by approving amendments to its Dangerous Drugs Act late Tuesday night.
Governor General Sir Patrick Allen is expected to sign the amendments into law within days.
The debate was piloted by Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, who said implementation of the bill would remain "under constant review so that if there are unanticipated negative consequences, we will be able to deal with those."
Marijuana, known locally as "ganja," is grown widely across the Caribbean island and plays an important role in the Rastafarian spiritual movement popularized by the late Jamaican reggae music legend Bob Marley.
The drug has recently won limited legal acceptance in a number of countries, as well as a growing number of U.S. states.
When enacted, Jamaica's new law will decriminalize marijuana for religious, medicinal, therapeutic and scientific purposes. Smoking marijuana, however, will not allowed in public spaces
A person holding up to two ounces (56.7g) in public would have to pay a small fine but would not be arrested. The offense would not go on his or her criminal record.
Jamaica’s Senate, known as the Upper House of Representatives, already approved the reforms earlier this month.
Local marijuana interests are working to build a medicinal ganja industry, which financial analysts believe could boost to the government’s strained budget.
(Editing by David Adams and Lisa Von Ahn)