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 those people charged previously 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.