PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: Trinidad and Tobago’s House of Representatives considered a new measure: allowing, among a number of other provisions, the research, cultivation, and retail distribution of cannabis, through the creation of a Trinidad and Tobago Cannabis Licensing Authority.
What is the impetus for the bill?
Attorney General Faris Al Rawi, during Wednesday’s parliamentary debate, identified the fiscal and administrative strain on the court system for mere possession, not to be confused with trafficking, as the primary motive for the bill.
He states that the cost of housing offenders, currently in the $25,000 range, far out ways the fees collected from offenders. Approximately $2,000. Additionally, it permits law enforcement to maintain a primary focus on more dangerous narcotics like opium, fentanyl, ecstasy, and cocaine.
Trinidad and Tobago Cannabis Legislation
The legislation authorizes a newly created Trinidad and Tobago Cannabis Licensing Authority to provide applicants the ability to engage in controlled cannabis-related activities. It provides for the responsible use of cannabis in non-public settings.
The bill also establishes a government fund to secure fees paid for cannabis licenses. The fund permits the finance and investment of monies collected to administer all elements of the statutory authority.
Use of Medical Marijuana
The active ingredient in cannabis, Tetrahydrocannabinol, THC for short, has numerous effects on the human body, particularly the nervous system. And has less lethal side-effects compared to other legal or prescription drugs.
The medical research on the positive health effects of cannabis is ongoing and sufficiently promising enough to warrant added exploration in the field of pain management, respiratory ailments and acute epileptic seizure treatment.
Rastafarian groups, some of the primary advocates of this legislation, have long sought government approval for legal cannabis. They consider its use a religious sacrament. Like the Eucharist in Catholicism, cannabis, for Rastafarians, is a symbolic proof of their gratitude and expression of their love administered during their worship ceremonies.
Trinidad and Tobago is not the first to reconsider its drug laws. A number of US states, most notably Colorado, and Caribbean countries like Jamaica, have legalized the sale of cannabis aka marijuana for medical and recreational purposes.
Amount of revenue Colorado raises from Cannabis?
One might ask how much revenue does a state such as Colorado generate from Cannabis? According to the State website just over 1.4 billion dollars annually in retail sales. A number increasing, steadily, since 2014 due to the popularity of the program.
This equates to $116 million in state revenues in FY 2019. (Trinidad And Tobago Moves To Decriminalize, Establish Cannabis Economy)
How would the Trinidad and Tobago judiciary address past convictions for cannabis possession?
The bill amends the Trinidad and Tobago Dangerous Drugs Act of 1991 to reclassify Marijuana as Cannabis. The bill cannot create a blanket proviso expungement for past convictions. It can, however, grant individuals the ability to request a pardon for simple possession, less than 30 grams.
Opposition to Trinidad and Tobago Cannabis bill
Public opponents of the measure consider the bill impractical and marijuana a gateway drug. They voiced a fervid emotional argument outside of parliament, prior to debate in the House of Representatives. The consternation is valid. Immoral individuals will mix other narcotics with cannabis purely for financial gain. This bill will change that by providing clean healthy dispensaries for the health conscious citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. For individual caught without a clean supply, it is suggested that you boil then dry the cannabis before use.
Opposition Ministers, while in favor of theoretical merits of creating a Trinidad and Tobago Cannabis Licensing Authority, voiced concerns about the bill’s language. And articulated some unintended consequences that could result from changing the current legislation which separates the strains of the plant and other CBD products based on THC levels.
Without a clear legal THC level definition: virtually harmless, less psychotropic strains, will incur the more draconian penalties upwards of TT250,000 attached to more virile strains.
Opposition Minister, Dr. Fuad Khan, called for a joint committee to fine tune the bill. He believes parliament could hash out some unintended consequences of the bill’s language, as drafted. Issues like the ambiguous definition of a public place, which the bill defines to include any place that the public has access to regardless of ownership, need reconsideration in his opinion.
The bill passed the lower house unanimously and now rests in the Senate.