An officer and Rastas seen in a face-off situation as they question why one of their brethren was placed inside a police van following the annual marijuana march and rally organised by the Organisation of Rastafari in Unity in August 2017. That Rasta man was later released that night without being charged as the incident did not stem from anything criminal or violent on his part. Seen at the forefront is Ras Sankofa Maccabbee who has expressed disappointment concerning the government’s overall handling of the amended (Prevention and Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) Bill 2019. Notably, the move to change up the Bill stemmed from a civil suit he won resulting in a 90-day ruling for changes to be. (Spokesman Snap)

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts (Friday 9th August 2019) – The government has pointed to the act smoking of marijuana as being harmful to the human body as supported by medical science while on the flipside recognizes the health benefits through medical use as the hot topic continues on the subject of decriminalisation.

Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Dr. Timothy Harris, during last week’s second reading of the Drugs (Prevention and Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) 2019 Bill before it was passed, addressed the two areas.

“We all know what smoking is even if we play smart about it but it is define and gets to the peculiarity that the act of smoking in a consistent way as outlined in that report National Commission on Cannabis Report ) as substantiated by medical science does great harm to persons. In fact, I remember engaging one doctor and the doctor said to me smoking regularly for at least three times per week will do significant harm to young children. I don’t know if three times is universally accepted but that was one view put forward.”  

As defined in the Bill, he said smoking deals with “Inhale, exhale, burn, combust, vaporise, [carried] on any heated device or pipe and so on and so on.”

“And I think for the first time there is a definition of smoking as opposed to use, recognising coming from the science, it is the smoking of cannabis more than any other form of intake that creates the greatest danger to people and to health and so in this particular part of legislation that we bring, we have provided a definition of smoking …”

On the topic of medical marijuana, PM Harris pointed out that: “The case has been accepted in several international treaties to which we are signatories that there are health benefits attributed to the use of cannabis, particularly the curative properties in relieving pain and restoring wellness to some persons.”

Also, he talked about views stemming from such information that “We should decriminalise the use of cannabis, marijuana for health and scientific purposes.”

He continued: “We may want to review this body of views as the public good view…the health benefits transcends each and every one of us and beyond national orders and the view if there is some good that can come out of this and the science seems satisfied that there is some good that we should move it from a regime where it is considered a serious crime, a dangerous crime to one that is more reflective of a regulated approach and the decriminalisation of its use this view was captured well on National Commission on Cannabis Report which was submitted early this year.”

PM Harris highlighted that it was the only subject matter in which there was consensus among that broad base committee in stating that the country should move to decriminalise for health medicinal reasons.

 Speaking to smoking in public, he remarked: “Public places, we’re saying, that smoking of cannabis will not be tolerated. It [the Bill] says bars, drinking places, restaurants and clubs, the use in those areas not being tolerated and that is in keeping with what is in vogue now that usually in those places there is special areas created for those who want to smoke their cigarette for example.”

The National Security Minister explained that public place means and indoor or outdoor area whether privately or publicly owned to which the public has access whether by right or invitation expressed or implied whether by the payment of money or not and it includes all commercial, agricultural industrial zone lands and properties.

Reading specific sections of the Bill, he said such “does not apply to a person found smoking cannabis or cannabis resin in a public place not including a registered place of worship of the Rastafarian faith.”

PM Harris stated that the 20th century view regarding drug use and misuse is no longer in vogue in the 21st century St.Kitts-Nevis and in the indeed in the changing Caribbean area.

“… and that is why we have seen the debate has come to the floor again regarding the matter of cannabis its role in society and what should be an appropriate legislative framework.”

He added: “We have seen Jamaica for example move enact legislation to decriminalise of the use of cannabis. We have seen Antigua and Barbuda follow suite followed by St. Vincent and the Grenadines, reflecting a new sort of new ethos on this subject matter. The truth Mr. Speaker is that everything is being impacted by the emergence of new science; new concepts about life, human rights, the changing views about religion…”

According to the National Security Minister: “Every country must carefully and progressively find its own pathway for determining their expressed will of the majority of the citizens and inhabitants without being oppressive to the minority. In other words how do we maintain a constructive cohesiveness in our country?”