St Kitts & Nevis, Dominica Moving to Decriminalize Marijuana

BASSETERRE, St Kitts, Wednesday July 31, 2019 – The St Kitts and Nevis and Dominica governments are following the lead of some of their Caribbean neighbours to decriminalize marijuana for medicinal and scientific, religious and recreational purposes.

Although Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit did not give a date, he said yesterday during his presentation of the 2019-2010 Budget that, “having regard to the empirical data and the growing international importance of medical marijuana and the world trend for the decriminalization of marijuana for medical, religious and recreational use, that the government should bring to the Parliament for consideration, legislation to decriminalize the possession of marijuana.”

The legislation would allow for the possession of not more than one ounce of marijuana. Anyone who has been convicted of marijuana possession for that amount would also have that struck from their record, Skerrit disclosed.

Meantime, in the St Kitts and Nevis National Assembly yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris introduced the Drugs (Prevention and Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) (Amendment) Bill, 2019 to pave the way for the regulated and controlled use of marijuana/cannabis for medicinal and scientific, religious and recreational purposes in the twin-island federation.

The amendments follow Cabinet’s establishment of a National Marijuana Commission to ascertain the views of citizens and residents on cannabis use. The commission was led by Chief Medical Officer Dr Hazel Laws, and found unanimous agreements for the decriminalization of marijuana in the Federation. The commission also recommended a phased approach to the establishment of a marijuana industry.

Since then, the High Court has ruled that some prohibitions on cannabis use outlined in the Drugs (Prevention and Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) Act, Cap 9.08, were too broad and inconsistent with the Constitution.

The amendments taken to Parliament yesterday were in response to that.

Prime Minister Harris promised to give special support and priority to locals interested in pursuing marijuana cultivation and trade within the confines of the law.

The government has also put together a group of experts to provide technical support to further advance the work towards the decriminalization of cannabis and the establishment of a marijuana industry.

The Cannabis Core Committee of experts will focus on ensuring that the St Kitts and Nevis cannabis legislation is the most modern and progressive in the region, and advise on the necessary systems to make the industry a real and substantial one that contributes to the health and wellness of the people, creates jobs and helps generate income.

“The establishment of a modern industry requires a lot of work and preparation and especially one which has to date been part and parcel of deeply held ideas regarding its use, its legitimacy, and even its legality a lot of work still remains to be done,” said Prime Minister Harris.

The committee will be chaired by Dr Wycliffe Baird who “has been involved with the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines with their cannabis legislation and industry and he has done work in Africa in relation to this, so he comes to the committee already prepared and knowledgeable with regard to this particular activity”, Harris said.

Members of the Cannabis Core Committee are also drawn from the critical stakeholder groups such as the Christian Council, the Rastafarian community, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the youth, the Office of the Attorney General and comprises a number of cannabis experts.

Other members of the committee are Ras Eli X Freeman; Melvin Marcelo Agard; Dwayne Hendrickson, CARICOM Youth Ambassador; Kara Daly, representing the Chamber of Industry and Commerce; Cannon Dwane Cassius, representative of the St Kitts Christian Council; Senior Crown Counsel Tashna Powell, representing the Office of the Attorney General; Allison Isaac, Parliamentary Counsel, Office of the Attorney General; and Ras Iroy, Chairman of the Organization of the Rastafarian.

Members of the Cannabis Core Committee held their first meeting yesterday.

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