Photo caption: Flashback to the first regional consultation held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Head of Commission (4th from R) Prof. Rosemarie Belle-Antoine, members of the Commission w St. Vincent P.M. Hon. Ralph Gonsalves (5th from R) and CARICOM Secretariat Assistant Secretary General for Human and Social Development , Dr. Douglas Slater, in June 2016.
Regional commission on marijuana holds national consultations in Guyana
Greater Georgetown, Guyana – Guyana will host consultations surrounding the use of marijuana on Nov. 6 as part of the Caribbean community’s call for “careful in-depth research” to inform decision-making on the issue.
The Regional Commission on Marijuana, established by CARICOM heads of government, will hold a number of focus groups with youth, faith-based organizations and special interests groups. A town hall meeting opened to the public is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the St. Stanislaus College, Brickdam, Georgetown.
The region-wide consultations are intended to obtain information on the social, economic, health and legal issues related to marijuana use in the Caribbean. Such information would, among other outcomes, determine whether there should be a change in the current drug classification, modeled after the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, for which many, if not all, CARICOM members are party to.
Given that reclassification of the drug would make it legally accessible for all types of use, including religious, recreational, medicinal and research, the regional commission is expected also to provide recommendations on the legal and administrative conditions that will apply, as per its “Terms of Reference.”
Many countries’ legislations do not currently allow for full legislation under international law and national approaches to addressing this issue have resulted in various positions. In the case of Jamaica, for example, the Dangerous Drugs Act was amended in 2016 and legislation was passed that reduced possession of small quantities to a petty offence. It also created the framework for the development of legal medical marijuana, hemp and nutraceutical industries.
Antigua and Barbuda’s cabinet agreed in August 2016 to send a draft law to Parliament for its first reading. In August of this year, Belize introduced an amendment to its Misuse of Drugs Act to deciminalise the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana.
The proposed legislation also provides for the imposition of monetary and nonrecordable penalties for such amounts that are found on school premises in specialized circumstances and decriminalizes the use of the substance in small amounts on private premises (Amandela News). In other countries, there have been widespread public information and communications initiatives driven by both government and civil society.
In addition to national consultations, the Regional Marijuana Commission will undertake extensive secondary research to inform the preparation of reports to be submitted to the CARICOM heads of government for its consideration. To date, consultations have taken place in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados. National consultations will continue in Suriname, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Belize.
The commission is headed by Professor Rose-Marie-Bell Antoine, dean of the faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, and comprises practitioners with expert knowledge in a variety of disciplines including medicine and allied health, health research, law enforcement, ethics, education and anthropology/sociology/culture. For more information, visit caricom.org/marijuana-commission.