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Trinidad: Marijuana decriminalisation bill for Par­lia­ment to­day

By Trinidad Guardian

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Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley before his address to supporters at the PNM’s Local Government meeting at the La Horquetta Complex, last night.

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) —  Leg­is­la­tion to have mar­i­jua­na de­crim­i­nalised is to be laid in Par­lia­ment to­day.

The an­nounce­ment of the long-await­ed leg­is­la­tion was made by At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi at last nights Peo­ple’s Na­tion­al Move­ment (PNM) Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment elec­tion meet­ing in La Hor­quet­ta.

“Our Cab­i­net to­day (yes­ter­day) un­der our Prime Min­is­ter to­day (yes­ter­day) ap­proved for lay­ing to­mor­row in the Par­lia­ment, two pieces of law. One the amend­ment to the Dan­ger­ous Drug Act to de­crim­i­nalise the pos­ses­sion of mar­i­jua­na,” he said.

The Cab­i­net al­so ap­proved the lay­ing of the Cannabis Con­trol Au­thor­i­ty bill.

Al Rawi ex­plained the leg­is­la­tion pro­pos­es to al­low per­sons to have up to 30 grammes of mar­i­jua­na in their pos­ses­sion.

He added per­sons in pos­ses­sion of 30 to 60 grammes of mar­i­jua­na will be is­sued a fixed penal­ty no­tice by po­lice.

Once paid on time, AG Al Rawi said this will not af­fect a per­son’s crim­i­nal record.

How­ev­er, he not­ed fail­ure to do so, the of­fend­er may face a fine of up to $50,000.

The AG made it clear that per­sons will not be al­lowed to smoke mar­i­jua­na in pub­lic spaces, in­clud­ing the work­place, or while around chil­dren.

Al Rawi al­so re­vealed peo­ple who have a con­vic­tion or charge in re­la­tion to un­der 60 grams of mar­i­jua­na will be al­lowed to ap­ply to the court to have it dis­missed and re­moved from their crim­i­nal record.

In mak­ing the an­nounce­ment, Al-Rawi said that the courts were clogged by cas­es of mar­i­jua­na pos­ses­sion.

As many as 85,000 mat­ters clog­ging up the court sys­tem to­day has to do with mar­i­jua­na pos­ses­sion.

He al­so stat­ed ap­prox­i­mate­ly 500 peo­ple “cur­rent­ly sit down in a jail” be­cause they can’t ac­cess bail, cost­ing tax­pay­ers around $700 mil­lion.

He said de­crim­i­nal­is­ing mar­i­jua­na, will “free up 60 per cent of Foren­sic’s work­load” and al­low the court to fo­cus on more se­ri­ous crimes.

Al-Rawi, speak­ing at the PNM lo­cal gov­ern­ment meet­ing in La Hor­quet­ta last night, said that it was fig­ures like those that were dri­ving the need to de­crim­i­nalise mar­i­jua­na.

“Hence the idea and gen­e­sis of de­crim­i­nal­is­ing mar­i­jua­na,” he said.

Al-Rawi said from 2007 to 2018 there have been 84,668 mat­ters for pos­ses­sion of mar­i­jua­na in the courts.

“In 2018 alone, 8,316 peo­ple came be­fore the mag­is­trate court for pos­ses­sion of mar­i­jua­na pos­ses­sion alone, Al-Rawi said.

He said if those 8,000 cas­es were re­moved from the courts, it sig­nif­i­cant­ly re­duced the num­ber of cas­es judges heard and ef­fec­tive­ly sped up the ju­di­cial sys­tem.

He said it was not just peo­ple com­ing be­fore the courts but those who are in­car­cer­at­ed and sent to jail.

“For the pe­ri­od 2010 to 2018, 2,407 peo­ple were put in­to Re­mand Yard to­geth­er with 991 peo­ple for traf­fick­ing, 41 for cul­ti­va­tion,” he said.

Al-Rawi said rough­ly 500 a year were in­car­cer­at­ed in pre-tri­al con­di­tions, which means they have not been to court and can­not ac­cess bail.

Those 500 peo­ple are un­able to ac­cess bail be­cause they have no as­sets to bail them­selves out of prison on bail­able of­fences.

“These in­clude peo­ple who use cannabis for med­ical pur­pos­es, for epilep­sy, peo­ple caught with it and the man next to you had it and you get tak­en down,” he said.

He said the cost of those ar­rests and in­car­cer­a­tion are borne by tax­pay­ers.

He said it costs tax­pay­ers be­tween $15,000 and $20,000 per pris­on­er per year to keep those per­sons in jail.

“Tax­pay­ers pay for prison of­fi­cers, war­rant of­fi­cers, po­lice­men, food and elec­tric­i­ty in pris­ons, Jus­tice on Time for trans­port,” he said.

He said as much as $617 mil­lion was spent by tax­pay­ers every year to main­tain the cur­rent sys­tem.

He said if mar­i­jua­na was de­crim­i­nal­ized, it freed up the courts to deal with oth­er mat­ters.

“Mar­i­jua­na is clas­si­fied as a dan­ger­ous drug, un­der the dan­ger­ous drug act, it has a law and a law to reg­u­late it and mar­i­jua­na has been sub­ject to this Dan­ger­ous Drug Act, where pos­ses­sion of mar­i­jua­na means you are in pos­ses­sion of a dan­ger­ous drug and if you are in pos­ses­sion of a dan­ger­ous drug, if a po­lice­man finds you with that, you can find your­self on a charge,” he said.

“But Aun­ty Kam­la has rolled out, say­ing that they will deal with it, and pass laws to deal with it,” he said.

“We want to treat with this dan­ger­ous drug thing so the mag­is­trate and court could fo­cus on rape, ag­gra­va­tion, mur­der what­ev­er se­ri­ous crimes,” he said.

He said Per­sad-Bisses­sar had 10 years to change the law but nev­er did how­ev­er the PNM was look­ing at li­cens­ing the growth and med­ical us­age.

Mean­while, Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley said he was dis­ap­point­ed to learn that mil­lions of dol­lars were be­ing spent to process mar­i­jua­na of­fend­ers.

He said he knows some peo­ple will be against the changes but not­ed that this will re­build fam­i­ly re­la­tion­ships.

He al­so as­sured the Gov­ern­ment will en­sure there is a prop­er man­age­ment sys­tem in place.

Just this month Op­po­si­tion Leader, Kam­la Per­sad Bisses­sar, promised to de­crim­i­nalise the herb while ad­dress­ing UNC sup­port­ers at the Cou­va South Mul­ti-Pur­pose Hall.

This article was posted in its entirety as received by This media house does not correct any spelling or grammatical error within press releases and commentaries. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of, its sponsors or advertisers.

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