With a suite of legislation passed in the Federal Parliament on Wednesday, the government helped set the foundation for ushering in and managing a cannabis industry in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Following debate, the Liquor Licence (Amendment) Bill, 2020; Cannabis Bill, 2020; Drugs (Prevention & Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) (Amendment) Bill, 2020 were all unanimously passed in the National Assembly.

“Here it is that St. Kitts and Nevis is moving ahead in bringing a legislation to deal with the creation of a new industry. This bill is drawing on the wealth of international and regional experience to create legislation that can withstand the test of time and stand the test of international scrutiny,” Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris said.

“This piece of legislation is what’s right for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis. The benefits will come in the built out of a new industry demanding new jobs for our people, providing opportunities for our young people with an interest in science, in technology, in engineering, in mathematics and other sciences including agriculture, to have opportunities for participation,” Dr. Harris added.

Attorney General, the Honourable Vincent Byron, said the legislation came after several years of exhaustive research and consultations.

Senator Akilah Byron-Nisbett Supports Bill

Senator, the Honourable Akilah Byron-Nisbett, threw her support behind the Cannabis Bill, 2020, which provides for the establishment of the Medicinal Cannabis Authority to regulate, monitor and control the cultivation, supply, possession, production and use of medicinal cannabis and for related matters.

“Mr. Speaker, today we discussed reforms that are coming, not only to our Federation but also around the world. These are important changes that can make a positive impact on the lives of our people and the way that this argument in this House should be, focused Mr. Speaker,” said the Senator. “It is a way of ensuring that the quality of life is improved for those individuals who suffer from chronic pains Mr. Speaker, through the use of medicinal cannabis as well as opportunities that are created from his brand new cannabis industry and the jobs as well that will be created with this brand new industry Mr. Speaker, and we cannot lose focus on that fact.”

Senator Byron-Nisbett added sometimes “you just have to broaden your mind and focus on what truly matters” noting that the Bill matters for several reasons, including the treatment of those suffering with pain and the benefits of a cannabis industry in the Federation.

More Than 800 to have Criminal Records Expunged

Some 800 will soon have their criminal records for possession of small amounts of marijuana expunged, thanks to the passing of the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

The legislation will expunge criminal records for those who were convicted under section 6B of the Drugs (Prevention & Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) Act, Cap. 9.08; or convicted of an offence or offences involving less than 56 grammes of cannabis or cannabis resin in a quantity of 15 grammes or less.

“We have gone back some 20 years to look at the files that are held by the police and we have found some 808 people who are thus affected and who will now be able to apply for and have their records expunged,” Attorney General the Honourable Vincent Byron said.

In his support of the bill, Minister of Government Business, et al., the Honourable Eugene Hamilton, said the legislation gives a second chance and presents fresh opportunities to hundreds of people.

Government Amends Framework to Regulate Growing Cannabis Industry

The government has amended and put in place the necessary framework in order to regulate the ever-growing cannabis industry, and Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Shawn Richards said the government is forward thinking.

“You will be able to go to the supermarket and purchase what you want. So, we are now putting the legislative framework in place that if you need to go to a drug store, for example, to purchase it and you have a medical certificate giving you the right to do so you are able to do so,” he said. “If today or tomorrow, for example, five persons turn up at JNF with some sort of psychotic condition and the five persons say to you that they have been smoking, it becomes a little difficult for you to say, well, where did you get the particular strain that you have smoked from and do the necessary testing etc..”

“Now with this particular piece of legislation you are putting in place the necessary protocols so that if you have such an issue and the five persons say to you we purchased this at this particular place of business of course you can now go and do the necessary checks to find out what may have been the issue—which particular farm, for example, it came from, where was it imported from, and from there you can do all of the necessary checks and take corrective action,” he added.

He added that in some instances, a particular food item may be pulled from the stores because there are concerns with it. He said with the proper framework is now in place in the cannabis industry so the item can be clearly identified.

Marijuana Smoking to be Prohibited in Unauthorized Public Places

Deputy Prime Minister Richards clarified legislation allows for the smoking of marijuana exclusively in registered places of worship after questions arose regarding the practices of persons in the Rastafarian community.

“The [current] bill doesn’t have to speak about Rastafarians using cannabis at their place of worship because previous legislation passed in this Parliament would have taken care of that,” he said. “Mr. Speaker, the Drugs Prevention and Abatement Act, which came to this Parliament back in 2019, already made provisions for Rastafarians to be able to smoke at their place of worship without it being for medicinal purposes.”

The deputy prime minister stated that the particular piece of legislation speaks to the fact that individuals are not allowed to smoke in public places.

Deputy Prime Minister Richards said that the piece of legislation also speaks to the amount of marijuana a person can have in his or her possession, as well as where the plants can be legally grown and who is authorized to grow such.  Growing marijuana legally can only be done by license.

“The only place you don’t need a prescription coming from a doctor to be able to utilize it is at a place of worship,” he said. “So even for the Rastafarians, they don’t need a prescription.”

Information on the bills passed during Wednesday’s sitting of the National Assembly can be found online at https://www.sknis.kn/category/parliament/.