Commerce Minister Bradley Felix has been appointed government’s point man in determining the direction government takes regarding the de-criminalisation or legalization of marijuana.
Public Service and Local Government Minister Lenard ‘Spider’ Montoute was the one who fingered Felix as the point man on the issue, an announcement he made Monday in response to reporter queries to do with the pace at which government was moving in making up its mind on the marijuana issue; Saint Lucia lags behind its sister islands in the OECS subregion in tackling the issue.
Montoute labelled as untrue reports that government did not plan on delivering a promised review of the laws pertaining to marijuana.
“Progress has been made on the issue,” Montoute said, adding that he is in support of a re-evaluation of his government’s position on marijuana.
“I continue to be a Member of Cabinet who is in support of movement to review our position as far as cannabis is concerned,” Montoute said.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet earlier this year announced that his government had agreed marijuana would be decriminalized, and commercial opportunities looked into. He did not give timelines as to when this would happen, something that has frustrated local advocates of change in the marijuana laws.
Government, to date, is being pressed to take a more lenient stance on cannabis following moves by a number of islands in the OECS and the wider Caribbean in decriminalising marijuana for medical and other purposes.
Saint Lucia, like other countries in the region, is caught up in the debate centred on whether to grow marijuana as a cash crop for commercial, medicinal or other purposes.
Countries like Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica and others have moved beyond the debate by changing their marijuana laws, others on the verge of doing the same to make it legal, particularly for medical purposes.
Barbados for instance has shown a willingness to change its current position on marijuana as an illegal substance by legislating softer laws to see how best the island can profit financially from its cultivation.
Members of the Rastafarian religion, the Cannabis Movement of Saint Lucia and other groups and individuals are not buying into government pronouncements that they are progressing with the matter with a decision imminent.
They have all been criticising government for what some claim to be government’s “shameful lack of progress” on the marijuana issue.
In fact, many are furious at government leaders for promising to do something about the marijuana laws, years before, yet showing no progress to date despite being bombarded on all sides by studies, even from CARICOM, showing that the current stance on marijuana can no longer suffice.
Meanwhile Montoute has expressed that he is an advocate for the expunging of the records of young people charged or incarcerated for using marijuana; or being caught with a stick or two or marijuana. He also said he intends to pursue this advocacy until obliteration of the records takes place.
“I know I have a lot of support in Cabinet on that matter and so I would like to see it expedited,” Montoute said.