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.