MSJ wants moratorium on ganja charges

With April be­ing de­clared as the in­ter­na­tion­al month of cannabis, the Move­ment for So­cial Jus­tice’s youth arm is call­ing for an im­me­di­ate mora­to­ri­um on all ar­rests for pos­ses­sion of small amounts of mar­i­jua­na.

They are al­so call­ing for an ex­pung­ing of all the crim­i­nal records of peo­ple pre­vi­ous­ly charged for mar­i­jua­na pos­ses­sion.

Speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence at the MSJ’s head­quar­ters in San Fer­nan­do yes­ter­day, MSJ youth chair­man An­ge­lo Hart said Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley had an­nounced that the bill to de­crim­i­nal­ize mar­i­jua­na will be brought to Par­lia­ment by June.

How­ev­er, Hart said he was dis­ap­point­ed that af­ter con­sul­ta­tion, the Gov­ern­ment has failed to in­di­cate whether the pro­pos­als made by or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the All Man­sions of Rasta­fari move­ment were tak­en in­to ac­count.

The Rasta­far­i­an group has been rais­ing aware­ness of the med­i­c­i­nal ben­e­fits of cannabis through sym­po­siums and pub­lic ral­lies over the past few months.

“As was men­tioned, the Prime Min­is­ter said the bill is com­ing in June. We in­tend to make him stick to his word.

This is a di­rect chal­lenge for him to prove that they have lis­tened to the cit­i­zens and to show that con­sul­ta­tions were not for po­lit­i­cal mileage but to show that they were ac­tu­al­ly lis­ten­ing,” Hart said.

Gen­er­al sec­re­tary of the All Man­sions of Rasta­fari Glen­roy “Bon­go Grease” Halls said a ten-point plan had been pre­sent­ed to the Gov­ern­ment re­gard­ing the de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of mar­i­jua­na.

This in­clud­ed the ex­pul­sion of crim­i­nal records re­lat­ed to cannabis pos­ses­sion; es­tab­lish­ment of a cannabis cen­tre for pro­duc­tion and pro­mo­tion of down­stream cannabis pro­duc­tion; in­clu­sion of small farm­ers in­to the cannabis in­dus­try; new leg­is­la­tion for the rights of Rasta­fari in T&T; de­vel­op­ment of a re­search cen­tre for cannabis; sup­port­ing struc­tures for drug abuse and ad­dic­tion and repara­to­ry jus­tice for the Rasta­fari com­mu­ni­ty through the grant­i­ng of 150 acres of land to the Rasta­fari com­mu­ni­ty.

Halls al­so said he want­ed the rec­om­men­da­tions of the All Man­sions of Rasta­fari, which con­sists of var­i­ous groups in­clud­ing 12 Tribes of Is­rael, Nyab­hin­gi, Bobo Shan­ti and African Uni­ty, to be in­clud­ed in the bill.

Call­ing on the Gov­ern­ment to dis­close the scope of de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion, Halls said, “What is trou­bling us is we have a pol­i­cy pa­per that should be in­clud­ed in this bill. We do not think that peo­ple should be bru­talised for pos­ses­sion of a plant.

“Youths who have been charged end up in jail with hard­ened crim­i­nals. De­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion should mean eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits for us, free­dom and jus­tice, a so­ci­ety that can have a bet­ter so­cial re­spon­si­bil­i­ty when deal­ing with cannabis.”

Last year, Row­ley said the bill to de­crim­i­nalise mar­i­jua­na will be laid in Par­lia­ment in June. How­ev­er, he stressed that de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion did not mean le­gal­i­sa­tion.

Reporter: Radhica De Silva

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