Letters & Opinion

A Cannabis Movement Update — Establishing a regulated cannabis economy in Saint Lucia

Image of marijuana by Alex Person

The Cannabis Movement has been reliably informed that cannabis law reform was discussed at the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers (22nd July 2019) and chaired by the acting Prime Minister, the Honourable Ezekiel Joseph.  It is our understanding that a new National Cannabis Commission will be formed to further move the process forward. The Cannabis Movement eagerly awaits the publication of the relevant Cabinet Conclusion(s) detailing the decisions reached regarding cannabis law reform.

The absence of the Honourable Prime Minister from that meeting was unfortunate as it has been under his leadership that cannabis was included in the PEMANDU Agriculture Diversification plan. The Cannabis Movement also applauds the tremendous work of Minister Bradly Felix in continuing to champion this issue in Cabinet along with Minister Montoute, and Minister Rigobert.

The Cannabis Movement reminds the Cabinet of Ministers that the positive recommendations of the CARICOM Cannabis Commission report, delivered two years ago, was followed by the recommendation of this very same Cabinet to include cannabis in the PEMANDU Lab, the outcomes of which are being implemented as this is written. The Cannabis Movement has also submitted to Cabinet a detailed White Paper on cannabis reform outlining the way forward to ensure that the traditional farmers and others making their livelihood from cannabis were not disenfranchised by cannabis law reform. All of these documents detailed the pathway to a legalized regulated regime.

Even more critically the Cannabis Movement would further remind the Cabinet of Minister of the recent ruling of Justice Eddy D. Ventose of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in case #SKBHCV2017/0234. In the Court’s Disposition, subsection (6) “A Declaration is granted that section 6(2) of the Drugs Act read with Part II of the Second Schedule to the Drugs Act is inconsistent with and therefore infringes the Claimant’s constitutional right to privacy under sections 3 and 9 of the Constitution to the extent to which it makes no exemption for possession by an adult in a private place of any amount of cannabis for his or her personal use in private.”

The Disposition went on in paragraphs 4 and 5 and addressed the rights of Rastafarians to freedom of religion and in paragraph 7 to the right of people to cultivate cannabis. The striking down of the law was suspended for 90 days (from 3 May) to allow the SKN National Assembly to remedy the constitutional defects as set out in the judgment.

We cite the above case in St Kitts/Nevis as our Constitutions and our drugs laws are similar and the ECSC is also our Court and this ruling can be seen as a precedent that may be used to challenge Saint Lucia’s outdated drugs act.

The Cannabis Movement views the formation of yet another commission as a stall tactic used by a minority of the members of Cabinet who seem to refuse to acknowledge the science around cannabis has evolved and the old ideas of reefer madness was just another lie. It is time to move forward with a comprehensive cannabis reform programme to ensure that cannabis is available to the people of Saint Lucia for sacramental, medicinal or personal use.

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