Opposition wants JSC to examine weed bills

Date: 
Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 12:45

Op­po­si­tion MP Dr Fuad Khan yes­ter­day sug­gest­ed that the Cannabis Con­trol Bill and the Dan­ger­ous Drug Bill be sent be­fore a Joint Se­lect Com­mit­tee (JSC) be­cause they are too op­pres­sive and dra­con­ian and need to be re­worked.

 

In his con­tri­bu­tion to de­bate in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives yes­ter­day, the San Juan/Barataria MP said, “I ac­tu­al­ly beg the mem­bers on the oth­er side if they can at least con­vince the at­tor­ney gen­er­al that we would like to have this sent for prop­er draft­ing, prop­er flesh out, prop­er as­sess­ment and a prop­er bill be brought to this ho­n­ourable House where we can move for­ward with cannabis leg­is­la­tion and de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion.”

He said while Op­po­si­tion Leader Kam­la Per­sad-Bisses­sar is in favour of med­i­c­i­nal mar­i­jua­na, the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion was not care­ful­ly thought out. He sug­gest­ed they go back to the draw­ing board and pat­tern the mar­i­jua­na laws af­ter Ja­maica.

In ex­am­in­ing cer­tain claus­es of the Bill, Khan said there was need for a prop­er de­f­i­n­i­tion of smok­ing mar­i­jua­na in a pub­lic place which can be any­where. A per­son caught smok­ing in a pub­lic place is li­able to a fine of $250,000 and five years in jail.

Khan said in Ja­maica the gov­ern­ment out­lined what is a pub­lic place.

 

“The bill needs more work. You can’t come and say it is a sim­ple ma­jor­i­ty with dra­con­ian penal­ties and say you will pass it any­way,” he said.

Health Min­is­ter Ter­rence Deyals­ingh ad­mit­ted that cannabis and its use is a con­tro­ver­sial top­ic, so you can’t please every­one with “this piece of leg­is­la­tion.” He said cannabis needs more re­search and cau­tious use.

Un­der his min­istry, Deyals­ingh said, a T&T Cannabis Li­cens­ing Au­thor­i­ty (TTCLA) will be es­tab­lished for reg­u­la­to­ry con­trol of mar­i­jua­na. He said the Cannabis Con­trol Act should not be pro­claimed un­til mea­sures are put in place to ed­u­cate doc­tors and phar­ma­cists about cannabis and ad­here to spe­cif­ic guide­lines.

“We have to train doc­tors on how to pre­scribe med­ical mar­i­jua­na,” he said.

Ca­roni Cen­tral MP Dr Bhoe Tewarie asked Deyals­ingh when he ex­pects the Cannabis Bill will be pro­claimed. Deyals­ingh said that mat­ter has been dealt with by the AG.

“There is some­thing about this Bill that is bipo­lar I find . . . which is to say that while it at­tempts to de­crim­i­nalise mar­i­jua­na on one hand and to ad­dress the is­sue of large num­bers of peo­ple in prison who would have ob­tained a crim­i­nal charge be­cause of an ounce of mar­i­jua­na, you al­so have in this bill some very heavy penal­ties and some dra­con­ian in­ter­ven­tion on the part of the law,” Tewarie said.

Mar­i­jua­na ac­tivist Naz­ma Muller, who lis­tened to the de­bate, said the Bills do not clar­i­fy the lev­els of THC in mar­i­jua­na. She agreed with Khan that both Bills should go be­fore a JSC so they would not “con­tra­dict each oth­er” while the pro­posed fines were too out­ra­geous.

Muller said Deyals­ingh’s sug­ges­tion that we should not pro­claim the Cannabis Con­trol Bill just yet, as his min­istry need­ed to set up the TTCLA was a way of de­lay­ing things.

“They are find­ing de­lay­ing tac­tics in pass­ing the Bill. It is disin­gen­u­ous,” Muller said.

Reporter:Shaliza Hassanali

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