PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Monday November 25, 2019 – The Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Faris Al-Rawi has introduced into Parliament, two pieces of legislation that would allow marijuana to be used for medicinal, religious and recreational purposes in the twin-island republic.
The two pieces of law approved by the Cabinet – the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2019 to decriminalise the possession of marijuana; and the Cannabis Control Bill which includes establishing a Cannabis Licensing Authority – will be debated at a later date. The Bills only require a simple majority, which the government has, to pass.
“Together, these Bills will amend the Dangerous Drugs Act and birth a new regulatory regime which will move our laws from a colonial archaic past to the future,” Al-Rawi said in a statement to Parliament.
Under the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill, individuals would be allowed to have up to 30 grammes of marijuana in their possession. Anyone found in possession of more than that amount – up to 60 grammes – would be issued with a fixed penalty by police, and once the fine is paid on time, that individual would not have a criminal record. The brunt of the law would be applied only where there is a refusal to pay the fixed penalty and only after the possibility of community service as an alternative remedy is explored.
The Bill also strictly criminalizes acts involving children. For example, a person who possesses cannabis, even within the allowable limits, will be prosecuted for having the substance on a school on bus or at school premises. He will be liable on summary conviction to a fine of TT$250,000 (US$36,948.05) and to imprisonment of five years.
Smoking in public spaces would also be illegal.
The legislation also allows for an individual to lawfully grow no more than four cannabis male plants without a licence.
Anyone with a conviction or charge related to less than 60 grammes of marijuana will be allowed to apply to the court to have the charge dismissed and removed from their criminal record.
The Attorney General contended that the burden to the taxpayer of hundreds of millions of dollars expended in remand incarceration is as atrocious as the effect to the lives of the accused and their families.
“Convictions for possession of marijuana have derailed many lives as they stand as a bar to education, travel and employment,” he said.
He noted that in the period 2007 to 2018, 84, 668 cases went before the Magistracy under the Dangerous Drugs Act for possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana for the purposes of trafficking, cultivation of marijuana and the gathering of marijuana. 71,964 of these cases were for possession of marijuana alone. In the law term 2017/2018, the Judiciary reported that 9,553 marijuana related cases came before the Magistrate’s court with 8,316 being for possession of marijuana alone.
Al-Rawi also disclosed that the Trinidad and Tobago Cannabis Authority will be established, under the Cannabis Control Authority Bill, to administer a licensing/registration regime to legitimize, establish accountability and transparency for the use of cannabis by persons and bodies engaged in religious, sacramental, medicinal and commercial activities.
The Attorney General said the Authority will have the power to issues eight types of licences including a cultivator licence, a research and development, laboratory, processor as well as retail distributor, import and export licences.
“Only certain persons will be eligible for licenses and registration and there is a guaranteed minimum local content of 30 per cent of ownership for companies and cooperatives so as to avoid the abuses that occurred with multinational domination in other territories,” he explained.
There will be strict control for medicinal use and for religious purposes which are separately addressed in the Bill.