Prime Minister Harris: Cannabis Bill 2019 responds to the popular will of the population

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, May 9, 2019 (PLP PR Media Inc.) — In tabling the Cannabis Bill 2019, in the National Assembly, Prime Minister Dr the Hon Timothy Harris has signalled that his Team Unity Administration would be introducing a reformist and enlightened piece of legislation that responds to the popular will of the population and keeps pace with similar international developments in the USA, Canada and Europe.

“The aim of the Team Unity Government as a general rule is to place St. Kitts and Nevis among the most advanced and forward-looking countries in the world,” said Prime Minister Harris at a sitting of the National Assembly on Thursday May 9 where the Cannabis Bill 2019 had its first reading.

“While countries before us for example Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines have passed their version of the Cannabis Bill, our bill when it comes through Committee will grant legislative approval for and regulate the use of cannabis for medicinal, for religious and recreational purposes,” observed Dr Harris.

According to the Honourable Prime Minister, from legal advice, his Team Unity Administration has attempted to move beyond the issue of marijuana’s medicinal use to include the other two broad streams of areas contemplated under the issue of marijuana decriminalisation – recreational and religious uses.

“Mr Speaker, indeed the matter which we are addressing and which is before the parliament is an item whose time has come, and the Team Unity Government is moving to legislate to decriminalisation of marijuana (cannabis) and set a framework for the orderly legal use of this,” said the Prime Minister.

“Today then is a red-letter day for our country. The Government today will advance the first reading of the bill and in the not too distant future then, St. Kitts and Nevis, the smallest country in the Western Hemisphere will provide a legal framework that represents the most modern and perhaps most comprehensive response to the issues relating to marijuana use.”

Prime Minister Harris noted that while many countries have revamped their laws governing cultivation and use of cannabis, in keeping with the popular will of their respective nationals, St. Kitts-Nevis is still governed by the prohibitive Drugs Act of 1986. The Act forbids cultivation, possession and use of marijuana, and according to Dr Harris, those prohibitions date back to a predecessor law of 1937 – some 82 years ago.

Some provisions of the Act, Dr Harris observed, would have become anachronistic and irrelevant in light of recent scientific findings on cannabis use and of changes in societal norms, and that is borne out in the findings of the National Commission on Marijuana.

“The St. Kitts and Nevis National Marijuana Commission discovered that nationals now have a much more liberal approach on all matters relating to marijuana, and they advocated a new legal and administrative regime,” reported Dr Harris.

He further noted that those findings conform with the report of the CARICOM Marijuana Commission, which in like fashion recommended to CARICOM heads at a meeting of the heads in Jamaica that they needed to move to make legislative changes to reflect a modern view of marijuana and its use.

“It should be made clear that while we are happy to present a Bill that mirrors the revised national viewpoint on marijuana use, that we should be clear that the law is still on the books, and before the law is changed, persons are expected to comply with the legislation,” advised Prime Minister Harris. “We want therefore to warn persons who would seek to illegally exploit the relaxation of marijuana law that has been proposed, and warn them that extant laws remain until they are otherwise amended or repealed.”

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