Team Unity Cabinet accepts unanimous recommendations of the National Marijuana Commission
The Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris-led Team Unity administration has accepted more than a dozen broad-based recommendations presented by the St. Kitts & Nevis (National) Marijuana Commission in its final report to the Cabinet on the way forward for the use of marijuana in the country.
The Commission’s report was presented to the Office of the Prime Minister on January 10, 2019. This was followed by a meeting between Cabinet members and members of the Commission on Monday, February 18 in Nevis where several of the recommendations were further deliberated upon.
The accepted recommendations include, inter alia, an amendment to the Drugs Act, having regard to scientific developments since the Act was passed in 1986; the use of cannabis and its derivatives for medicinal and scientific purposes permitted under license and a strict legislated regime; penalty for possession of less than 15 grams of cannabis be reduced to a ticketable offence without a criminal record; penalty for the growth of less than 5 plants per household should be reduced to a ticketable office without a criminal record, as well as the creation of a massive public messaging programme prior to any changes in the law and continuing thereafter informing the public of the benefits and risks and the potential harm to young persons regarding the use of cannabis.
Prime Minister Harris stated in Wednesday’s (February 20) sitting of the National Assembly that the National Marijuana Commission was “judicious and sensible in their recommendations” and noted that, “The acceptance of these recommendations put forward unanimously by the National Marijuana Commission portends some fundamental changes to existing laws in St. Kitts and Nevis which the Cabinet will have to consider carefully and consult further on.”
Notably, the prime minister said the Commission could not agree that cannabis should be legalized for religious purposes or that it should be legalized for recreational purposes.
“The Cabinet considers therefore that a phased approach is advisable taking the unanimous recommendations of the Commission as our first steps and thereafter consider the other areas on which unanimity could not be achieved, and that would be the prudent approach to take,” the prime minister added.
In practical terms, Prime Minister Harris said his Cabinet will consider and consult further on creating the framework for the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes and for the development of the medical cannabis industry in St. Kitts and Nevis.
“At the same time, it means that those found with under 15 grams of cannabis or growing less than 5 plants would receive ticketable offences only, and of course their criminal record would not reflect adversely with respect to these. Those currently in prison on convictions for small amounts [of 15 grams] should have their sentences reviewed and anyone convicted for such small amounts would have their conviction records appropriately cleared up,” the honourable prime minister said.
Prime Minister Harris thanked the members of the National Marijuana Commission on the quality of their final report “which has established important sign posts and given guidance to my Government” and stated that this approach of widespread consultation on a controversial issue, such as cannabis, adopted by this Government will become the model for addressing such issues in a modern democratic society such as St. Kitts and Nevis.