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BASSETERRE – The St Kitts and Nevis government has hailed the decision to introduce legislation aimed at decriminalising small amounts of marijuana for medicinal and other purposes as a step towards the twin island Federation consolidating its freedom from slavery.
In a message to mark Emancipation Day, which is being observed here Monday, Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris said that last week, his administration introduced to Parliament legislation to amend the prohibitive Drugs (Prevention & Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) Act, which forbade the cultivation, possession and use of marijuana.
He said these prohibitions dated back to a predecessor law of 1937.
“Of particular note is the insertion of a new subsection (3) in section 7. This new subsection states, “Subject to subsection (1), a person may apply to the Minister, through the Council, for a licence to cultivate cannabis for personal use and shall be guided by Regulations made under this Act,” Harris said, adding “it could not have come at a better time than close to Emancipation Day, an emotionally significant day that signifies our freedoms and rights.”
But he lamented that “too many of our youth have been criminalised and incarcerated in relation to cannabis, and as a result they have lost out on job and travel opportunities, opportunities to study abroad, a good future and a good name”.
However he said his coalition government has introduced legislation “to expunge the records of those criminalised”.
“We offer a fresh start to our people in a new era of enlightenment and engagement with cannabis. We are committed to decriminalising marijuana and in the near future expunging criminal records for related offences of a certain degree while ensuring that the health and welfare of our nation’s children are protected.”
Harris said that on this occasion of celebrating Emancipation, “there is no better time to acknowledge our painful history, take stock of where we are and make amends for past mistakes”, adding “we owe it to ourselves, to the memory of our forebears and to our future generations”.
The government has since announced the establishment of a broad based Cannabis Core Committee of experts to provide technical support to further advance the work towards the decriminalisation of cannabis and the establishment of a marijuana industry in the Federation.
“The establishment of a modern industry requires a lot of work and preparation and especially one which has to date been part and parcel of deeply held ideas regarding its use, its legitimacy, and even its legality a lot of work still remains to be done,” Harris told legislators late last month.
He said the committee will be chaired by Dr Wycliffe Baird who “has been involved with the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines with their cannabis legislation and industry and he has done work in Africa in relation to this, so he comes to the committee already prepared and knowledgeable with regard to this particular activity”.
Other members of the Committee are drawn from the Christian Council, the Rastafarian community, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the youth, the Office of the Attorney General as well as other experts in the field of marijuana. (CMC)