Trinidad & Tobago talks up ganja reform

Members of the House of Representatives in Trinidad and Tobago are set to debate two new pieces of legislation brought before it by the government of Trinidad and Tobago which tabled two marijuana reform bills last Friday.

One bill aims to decriminalise low-level possession of the weed and another to legalize cannabis for medical and religious purposes.

The government appears to be getting in line behind other Caribbean jurisdictions which have successfully passed similar legislation.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi in a speech to the House explained that the administration wants to reduce the prison population, curb costs associated with marijuana-related incarceration and free up law enforcement resources to pursue serious crimes.

Under the first proposal, possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis would be decriminalised. 

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi (Photo: Stabroek News)

Possession of more than 30 grams and up to 60 grams would be punishable by a “fixed penalty notice” of about US$7,400 that would not impact an individual’s criminal record if the fine is paid.

Additionally, the legislation put before Parliament would provide a pathway to get prior possession records cleared if individuals petition the court.

The second bill calls for the sale, use and distribution of cannabis for medical, research and religious purposes, though it does not provide for a recreational market, says marihuanamoment.net, a website dedicated to legalisation updates.

The bill makes provision for a  government regulatory agency would be responsible for issuing a variety of licenses, including those for cultivators, laboratories, processors, dispensaries, importers, exporters and transporters.

Licenses would only be approved for companies with at least 30 per cent local control in order to “avoid the abuses that occurred with multinational domination in other territories.”

High penalties and jail time are attached. It is noted that a person who “uses medicinal cannabis without being authorised to use medicinal cannabis by a prescription or recommendation from a medical practitioner” is liable to a fine and ten years in jail.