Support is growing across the Caribbean for a movement that seeks to decriminalize cannabis use and then create a regulated industry.
The CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana hosted a rally in Trinidad this week in a bid to educate more people about the economic, medical, recreational, and sacramental importance of cannabis.
“The vast majority of the people whom we have spoken to want law reform,” said chair Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of the West Indies. She told the rally that 61% of people polled in Grenada and 62% of Antiguans want to see cannabis decriminalized, while “Barbados was also in the 60s”.
Belle Antoine added that more than 90% of people approve of the law reform that has seen Jamaica take the first steps towards a thriving regulated cannabis industry. She also mentioned wheelchair-bound patients in Barbados approaching her and begging for a law change that would allow them to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.
The CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana is a regional group that has produced several reports on the need to decriminalize cannabis across the Caribbean. It has branded existing legislation in member states draconian and prohibitionist.
Jamaican-born medical cannabis advocate, Dr. Anthony Pottinger, a gynecologist, lamented the number of young adults languishing in jails for merely smoking weed, which is being widely legalized for medicinal and recreational use across the globe.
“After considering the most up to date evidence and the views of Caribbean peoples, the commission is unanimous in its view that the status quo with respect to the legal regime governing cannabis/marijuana cannot be maintained and legal reform should be a priority for member states,” it said.
The heads of 19 Caribbean nations have attended the group’s meetings and pledged to review marijuana’s current status with a view to reclassification after noting human and religious rights issues and considering the potential economic benefits. Belle Antoine is a well-respected figure among heads of state in the regions, and the group’s concerns are being taken very seriously. Each country is analyzing the commission’s latest report and working out how best to roll out a regulated cannabis industry and some are a lot further ahead than others.
Antigua and Barbuda’s lower house of parliament passed the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill that decriminalized the possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis in February. Jamaica has permitted medicinal and religious marijuana use and it has started exporting to Canada. Medicinal cannabis is legal in the Cayman Islands, and St Vincent and the Grenadines is on course to create a substantial regulated industry. It seems likely that we will see several law changes in the region in the months and years ahead, and that before long it will become a leading global player in the legal cannabis industry.