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CARICOM decriminalisation of marijuana report expected next month


Posted in: Regional News by admin | 24 June 2016 | 4154

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    Gonsalves: consulations may last another year

    St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Hon Dr Ralph Gonsalves believes another year of consultations is possible before a regional decision is made on the decriminalisation of medical marijuana and small quantities of the drug.

    This even as the Regional Marijuana Commission is expected to deliver its report to Caricom next month on the controversial issue which has drawn widespread debate including here in Cayman.

    Dr Gonsalves, speaking with The Cayman Reporter last Thursday (16 June) during a brief visit to the Legislative Assembly, said regional consultations on the issue were inaugurated in his country last Wednesday.

    “The Regional Marijuana Commission came to St Vincent along with the relevant officials from Caricom. There were several focus groups and then after the focus group discussions during the day there was a national consultation yesterday evening (Wednesday 15 June).  So the process is in fact going on,” Dr Gonsalves said.

    He added that the report will come in July when Caricom next meets, but he admitted he does not believe the process will be completed any time soon.

    “I suspect that we will have another good year of consultations, but meanwhile when the discussions get going other people will be talking about it at a national level, not only regionally,” he said.

    The issue has been on the Caricom agenda for quite some time and Dr Gonsalves has been the most vocal advocate for the decriminalisation of the drug.

    However he stressed, “The decriminalisation that we are going for is really for medical marijuana and very small quantities, possibly for religious and recreational use.”

    St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Hon Dr Ralph Gonsalves says while regional consultations on the decriminalisation of medical marijuana and small quantities continues it may take a further year to complete those discussions before a regional decision on the controversial issue is made. In this photo Dr Gonsalves shares a light moment with Premier Hon Alden McLaughlin (right), Supervisor of Elections Wesley Howell and Immigration officials last Thursday (16 June) during a brief visit to the Legislative Assembly. Dr Gonsalves was in the Cayman Islands to speak about the nature of global insecurity at a University College Distinguished Lecture Series on Thursday night. Photo by Reshma Ragoonath.

    Dr Gonsalves was in the Cayman Islands last Thursday to speak about the nature of global insecurity at a University College Distinguished Lecture Series on Thursday night and met privately with Premier Hon Alden McLaughlin at the LA on Thursday morning.

    However The Cayman Reporter understood that the issue of the decriminalisation of medical marijuana was not discussed with the Premier.

    Last week the UK Guardian reported that the two leading public health bodies, representing thousands of doctors and other professionals, made “an unprecedented call for the personal possession and use of drugs to be decriminalised.”

    An article entitled ‘Leading public health bodies call for decriminalisation of drugs’  stated that the Royal Society for Public Health and the Faculty of Public Health contended that drug misuse should be a health issue, not a matter for the courts and prisons, which have not succeeded in deterring people from taking drugs. “More people than ever before are being harmed by drugs and then harmed again by the punishment meted out, instead of being helped to kick or contain the habit they say,” according to the article.

    Just last month Premier McLaughlin, in his budget policy statement on 30 May, announced that the government intended, as a matter of urgency, to legalise of the use of medical cannabinoid oil for the treatment of cancer and glaucoma among other conditions.

    However Premier McLaughlin made it clear government is not legalising the use of medical marijuana in Cayman Islands nor “I am not talking about legalising the use of the cannabis plant itself for medical or other uses,” he said as he spoke following the ceremonial opening of the Legislative Assembly.

    Premier McLaughlin indicated that under the proposed changes doctors will be able to prescribe the use of the oil, which derived from the cannabis or marijuana plant, to patients in need.

    The oil extract, he said, is derived from the cannabis plant that has been prepared for medical purposes and that will be imported into the Cayman Islands in a fashion similar to medical morphine.

    Premier McLaughlin told legislators, “After carefully considering the merits and demerits of legalising the use of medical cannabinoid oil to treat those in our community with a debilitating disease, whether cancer, glaucoma, or perhaps even severe epilepsy, Government is persuaded that it is better to favour hope and compassion over fear.”

    Last year Jamaica decriminalised small portions of marijuana paving the way for the legalisation of the drug for medical purposes. Last month Germany announced that it will legalise cannabis for medicinal purposes early next year. A draft bill is in the process of being finalized.

    Last year Bodden Town MLA Alva Suckoo began a public campaign to solicit views on whether he should bring a motion on the legalisation of medical marijuana in Cayman. He received mixed support on the issue.

    Mr McLaughlin said Cabinet has issued instructions to the Legal Department to draft a Bill that will allow medical doctors to prescribe cannabinoid oil to patients who may benefit.

    “We are treating this as a matter of urgency for we are keenly aware that time is not a luxury for many of those whom this drug may benefit,” he said.

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