Sunday, January 21, 2018

Medicinal marijuana should be decriminalised

Caricom leaders agree in principle:


OPEN FOR DEBATE: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar addresses the 25th Inter-Sessional meeting of the conference of Heads of Government of Caricom yesterday at Buccament Bay Resort in the St Vincent and the Grenadines. —Photo courtesy The Office of the Prime Minister

Mark Fraser

LEADERS of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) have agreed in principle that marijuana for medicinal purposes should be decriminalised, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar stated yesterday.

Persad-Bissessar however said no decision will be taken on the issue unless there is first consent from the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

Persad-Bissessar made the statement yesterday while talking to members of the media following the opening ceremony of the 25th Inter-Sessional meeting of the conference of Heads of Government of Caricom.

The two-day meeting is being held at the Buccament Bay Resort in the St Vincent and the Grenadines.

According to a recent report released to The Associated Press, researchers with a Caribbean trade bloc have found that “decriminalising marijuana and exploring its use for medicinal purposes could help boost the region’s sluggish economy”.

This issue of decriminalising marijuana for medicinal purposes was one of the issues Caricom leaders sought to discuss yesterday.

Persad-Bissessar was yesterday asked about the issue.

“That is on the agenda, it is also on the agenda but it is something whilst we agree in principle, it is something that we will have to really thrash back to our populations,” Persad-Bissessar said.

“I don’t think as a responsible politician I would want to commit without getting consent from  the people of Trinidad and Tobago on that issue,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar said other countries  have already taken that step.

“It is being done in other countries, it is being done with some States in the United States and it is definitely something that is worth considering for medical purposes,” she said.

She questioned what would be the end though.

“The next step is private use in small amounts and where does it end, where does it go?” she asked.

Last year Uruguay became the first country to legalise the marijuana trade while several States in the United States have already implemented medicinal marijuana laws.

Persad-Bissessar said the decriminalising of marijuana for medicinal purposes could have an economic impact on the region.

“With no disrespect I am told they produce a lot of marijuana in this country (St Vincent and the Grenadines), no disrespect to them of course,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar said there is research both for and against the use of marijuana, and it may even have a positive impact on crime in the region.

“The research goes either way. There’s research that once you decriminalise it then the crime situations are lessened, there is research in that direction that when it is no longer on the black-market like everything else you can work into the parlour, the shop and buy and therefore the hiding and the stealing and the guns...that research says once you decriminalise it will assist in the fight against crime,” Persad-Bissessar said.

“Some say because it is not such a powerful narcotic as some others are they feel that that can be decriminalised and controlled and it may help in the fight against crime,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar said she has no personal view either way.

“I have not made any view on that, we must have further discussion before that is done and of course when we have that before us we take that to Trinidad and Tobago for public discussions and consultations,” she said. 

Persad-Bissessar, the outgoing chairman of Caricom, yesterday formally passed the chairmanship to St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.

In his feature address, Gonsalves raised the issue of the decriminalising of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

“We must have discussion on the regional policy regarding medical marijuana and the alteration of existing laws on the strict prescription of marijuana use for social and religious purposes,” he said.