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VIDEO: Wha gwaan, Jamaica? Obama addresses island's youth

The US President discusses marijuana and $70m youth investment at forum
Posted: 10/04/2015 10:06 AM
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MARIJUANA WAS one of the many topics US President Barack Obama spoke about during a youth forum held in the Assembly Hall at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Jamaica.

Arriving at the hall to a thunderous uproar at 2.55pm local time, Obama showed how infectious the Jamaican culture can be, as after just a few hours into his first visit to the island, he was quite 'Jamaicanised' and almost fluent in the island's patois dialect.

"Greetings, massive! Wha gwaan, Jamaica? Big up, UWI!" he exclaimed after bursting on stage, receiving deafening laughter and applause.

"I have been making myself at home. It is great to be in beautiful Jamaica . I just like the vibe here. I feel right at home and grateful for the warm Jamaican hospitality."

After addressing the gathering for about 15 minutes, he opened the floor to question and answers, as he was determined to engage the young leaders of Jamaica and CARICOM in an interactive session for the just over an hour he spent with them.

He was questioned on his views on the legalisation and decriminalisation of marijuana and the US's policy on the issue.

But he cautioned that legalising ganja was not a "silver bullet" for solving problems associated with the drug, noting that there are serious considerations which must be given to such a move.

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He added that although there appears to be many positive outcomes which could result from decriminalisation, a conversation must be held on possible repercussions, including its impact on the illicit drug trade, and even warning that if legalised, a consideration must be given that big companies could very well take over and squeeze out the small man.

He said policies must first be developed to decrease the flow of illegal drugs and guns across the region.

Jamaica recently passed a law to decriminalise the possession and cultivation of small quantities of ganja.

Young leaders from across Jamaica and the Caribbean were elated when Obama announced US$70 million investment in their development – through education, training and employment – revealed yesterday at the youth leaders town hall held in the Assembly Hall at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus.

“I think that is a tremendous move. I have always said the youth is where it all starts and Mr. Obama is showing how important it is to invest in them, and from a young age. We need to invest more in them, engage them, they are the ones to take over, and to not only sustain but improve on what this generation will leave behind,” a beaming UNICEF goodwill Ambassador Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce told The Gleaner.

The Olympian added: “I am really pleased he also emphasised on the importance of investing in early childhood development, because that is where it starts, because investing in children from they are young allows them to grow into promising leaders, it makes a big difference to the positive growth of a nation.”

Under the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI), which the president launched during his historic visit to Jamaica, the close to J$8-billion programme will be pumped into a number of projects, geared to expand opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs and civil society activities.

The president promised that once he leaves office, he hopes to island hop in the Caribbean.