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Debate On St. Vincent’s Marijuana Bills Postponed To Early Next Month

Saboto Caesar, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Minister of Agriculture, said in a Facebook Live question and answer broadcast, that the twin-island government is still in the process of concluding the establishment of the legislative framework.

Debate On St. Vincent’s Marijuana Bills Postponed To Early Next Month

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, November 24, 2018 (CMC) – The parliamentary debate on the legislation, regarding the decriminalisation of marijuana in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, has been postponed to December 10.

“We are still in the process of concluding the establishment of the legislative framework,” Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar, said in a Facebook Live question and answer broadcast.

The debate on the three bills was originally scheduled for Thursday. The Select Committee is reviewing The Medicinal Cannabis Industry Bill, The Cannabis Cultivation (Amnesty) Bill, and The Permitted Use of Cannabis for Religious Purpose Bill, which Caesar presented to lawmakers on September 7.

He said, in the broadcast, that the “major thrust” of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration is the establishment of “a modern, medical cannabis industry and that framework for an industry to thrive”.

“We also have, importantly, a bill that speaks to the issue of amnesty and from a religious standing, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we have a thriving cadre of persons, who follow the Rastafarian faith, and it is our intention to have it addressed, by way of legislation, to provide for the usage of cannabis as a sacrament, within the place of worship,” he added.

Caesar said the two “tiers” of the proposed medical marijuana industry is the production of medicine and scientific research.

“Both of these tiers fall squarely within the realms of our international legal obligations, pursuant to international treaties. However, it is critical and important that, as we address the issue of cannabis, that we have a holistic appreciation of cannabis within our space.

“And currently, there are two bills that are being drafted by the Honourable Attorney General. One has to do with the Drugs Prevention of Abuse Amendment Bill and the other is the Rehabilitation of Offenders Bill,” Caesar said.

He said the overarching objective of the Drugs Prevention of Misuse Amendment Bill “is to create a particular space so that there may be a non-custodial sentence for particular quantities”.

“However, these quantities are not yet cemented and the matter is still being discussed, and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I expect to see, over the upcoming weeks, a greater debate on these issues, as it pertains to the quantities,” Caesar said.

Last weekend, Senior Crown Counsel in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, Carl Williams, called for the legalisation of cannabis.

“The future of cannabis in SVG will not be determined by any of these cannabis bills. The rapid pace at which cannabis legislation is moving, globally, will not allow this to happen,” said Williams, who in 2012, called for the decriminalisation of marijuana with a view to legalisation.

“Medicinal cannabis cannot sell every day, but what is called recreational marijuana sells every hour,” he said, as he analysed the bills at an event, organised by opposition legislator, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste.

Williams said The Cannabis Cultivation Amnesty Bill will not succeed in removing the traditional marijuana growers from the mountains.

“No religious marijuana law will prevent communion from taking place in the backyard, in the hills or by the rivers,” he said in the speech, in which he described the Permitted Use of Cannabis For Religious Purposes Bill as an infringement on Rastafari human rights.

“There is no social justice in any of these pieces of legislation.  The intentions of Parliament are seen and known in the laws it makes.  Some believe that a different Parliament may have different intentions,” he said.

Williams said that the CARICOM Cannabis Commission has made certain recommendations to governments for decriminalisation and legalisation of cannabis.

“These recommendations should be acted upon in the interests of the people,” Williams added.

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