Marijuana advocate and head of the Caribbean Collective for Justice (CCJ) Nazma Muller is calling on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to implement an immediate suspension of marijuana arrests and a stop to the destruction of lucrative marijuana fields.
Her comments came after Rowley announced that the government will consider decriminalizing marijuana next year.
In an interview, Muller said, "We are still awaiting clarification as to exactly when Dr Rowley intends to table a motion to debate the legalisation of cannabis.
The public needs to have a clear commitment to the process of dismantling the prohibition that is ruining families, relationships and livelihoods.
Dr Rowley needs to give CoP Gary Griffith a mandate to focus on serious crime, white-collar crime, and violence against women and children."
Saying Dr Rowley was now aware of the role that cannabis plays in T&T, Muller said, "It affects almost every family in this country in some way, through sons jailed for a spiff, a daughter with lupus, a husband with back pain or stress, a mother with breast cancer. Cannabis oil is proven to help with all these conditions."
She also noted that Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh had the power to issue licenses to import, use, sell, grow and manufacture cannabis.
"The CCJ is asking Dr Rowley to speak with Mr Deyalsingh about the applications before him from sick people, including a baby with an inoperable tumour.
Not another person should be arrested for weed in this country. Why ruin another youth's future? Why put another father in prison and jeopardize his job, just for a smoke?" she asked.
Muller noted that Canada is going to legalise recreational marijuana on October 17.
"The social injustice being perpetrated on mostly working-class Afro-Trinbagonian men, especially the Rastafari, must outrage Dr Rowley - now that it has been brought to his attention. As the leader, he holds the power of life and death in his hands. We have lost too many of our people to cancer not to pursue research into cannabis oil as a treatment," Muller said.
She also urged the government to allow the University of the West Indies and the University of T&T to conduct clinical trials on marijuana.
"We must also immediately stop burning priceless ganja fields that can cure our people. Time is against us, especially the terminally ill. The CCJ urges the Prime Minister to be compassionate and consider the young men of this country rotting in jail for a spiff and act immediately to free them and dismiss all possession cases for less than two ounces before the courts. Do you know how many man hours are lost through marijuana cases that go on for years?" she asked.
She noted that drug cartels and corrupt police officers have a grip on the cannabis market.
"Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and Barbados are moving quickly to capitalise on the global boom, and so should we. Dr Rowley has the chance to right historical oppression and become a hero to many. I hope he will consider the recommendations of the CARICOM Marijuana Commission seriously and reach out to Jamaica for guidance and collaborate on building on an already strong comparative advantage in the ganja market."
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said Rowley's statement about marijuana legalization showed that the government did not have a clear policy.
Speaking at the UNC's Monday night forum, Persad-Bissessar said, "I want everyone to remember these things as the Prime Minister suddenly starts talking about marijuana decriminalization. Dr Rowley is not coming to us with a plan or policy on this issue. It is a complex issue with differing views and far-reaching positives and negatives consequences," she said.
Accusing Rowley of making statements to grab a headline without a plan or policy, Persad-Bissessar added, "Real questions with real answers must be put forward. Is decriminalization enough? What is the plan for persons who are currently in jail for a marijuana possession conviction? What about persons who currently have a marijuana conviction on their criminal record? Will that record be wiped clean now?"
Saying the issue was a complex one, Persad-Bissessar explained, "You can't just come and say that the government will start consultations on marijuana decriminalization and think that you can trick people into supporting you. The Prime Minister needs to come forward and tell us what is the PNM position on cannabis."
She also questioned whether medical marijuana will be allowed.
Persad-Bissessar recommended that the government put forward a policy position on marijuana.