Dominica's prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit (FILE)
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ROSEAU–Friday began a national consultation on the decriminalisation of marijuana with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit urging stakeholders to come up with feasible ideas that would facilitate his government’s final position on the issue.
“What you express here today would be recorded and will be analysed and a report will come out of those discussions so that it can serve as a basis and a foundation for future consultations,” Skerrit told the consultation that is also being attended by Professor Rosemary Belle Antoine, the Dean of the faculty of law at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) and who chaired the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Regional Commission on Marijuana.
Skerrit said he wanted to caution the country against “going in circles” regarding a way forward on the matter.
“I believe once we can agree on couple issues lets deal with it decisively and let’s move on,” said Skerrit, who left the consultation early due to the sudden death of a friend of the family.
Skerrit said that the discussion on the decriminalisation of marijuana has now become a worldwide debate and he believes “we can find consensus on some things that we can deal with almost immediately while we continue dialogue on other things which may need a greater level of understanding, appreciation and consciousness.
“I believe fundamentally and ideologically that we should not allow a prosecution of individuals for small quantities and having that on their record for their lifetime. I believe these are things we can deal with almost immediately as a nation towards the changing of legislation with respect to that,” Skerrit said, making also an argument for members of the Rastafarian community, who use the drug for religious purposes.
“I think the time has come for there to be an enlighten conversation on the issue (decriminalisation of marijuana), on religious purposes, on medicinal purposes. But at the same token too I believe we must not be unmindful of the challenges which the movement towards allowing these things to become a reality would also pose, especially to young people….”
Several Caribbean countries are debating the issue and the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana in its report submitted to regional governments earlier this year, recommended the declassification of marijuana as a dangerous drug in all legislation and the reclassification of the drug as a controlled substance.
“The commission believes that the end goal for CARICOM should be the dismantling of prohibition in its totality, to be replaced by a strictly regulated framework akin to that for alcohol and tobacco, which are harmful substances that are not criminalized,” the report said.
“… The commission is unanimous in its view that the current classification for cannabis/marijuana as a dangerous drug with no value or narcotic, should be changed to a classification of cannabis as a controlled substance,” it said.
Skerrit said that while his government has in the past articulated advanced the approach it would like to take as a country on the matter “this is the first opportunity where as citizens of a country and stakeholders we can start the process of having a wholesome dialogue and conversation.
“It is not an argument, it’s a conversation we should be having on this matter. Obviously all of us will not agree on every subject matter on this issue but that is all part of the dialogue and conversation we should have and need to have so that we can come to certain conclusions as a nation on how do we approach the issue of marijuana and its various uses,” he told the consultation. (CMC)