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Thursday 22 August 2019
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AMOR: Legalise marijuana

Activists unsatisfied with moves to decriminalise plant

Isiah Daniel of Lion's Den Productions, helps adjust a cannabis prop at the media conference hosted by the All Mansion of Rastafari (AMOR) to discuss issues surrounding the decriminalisation of cannabis in TT at the Twelve Tribes Headquarters, Diego Martin, Wednesday. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB.
Isiah Daniel of Lion's Den Productions, helps adjust a cannabis prop at the media conference hosted by the All Mansion of Rastafari (AMOR) to discuss issues surrounding the decriminalisation of cannabis in TT at the Twelve Tribes Headquarters, Diego Martin, Wednesday. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB.

It has long been a subject of contention between Government and advocates for the decriminalisation of cannabis sativa, commonly known as marijuana.

Now, the non-governmental organisation All Mansions Of Rastafari (AMOR) is ready for that to change.

AMOR, who called a news conference on Wednesday at their headquarters at Sea Trace, Diego Martin, said they had presented their position paper to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi on working out an equitable network on the subject.

Empress Q, member of AMOR and cannabis activist under her movement "Stay Calm, It's A Plant," said the Caricom Commission on marijuana had already done due diligence and submitted their own report with research that took place between 2014 and 2018.

"At that time, all members of Caricom, except one, abided by and engaged in public consultation. TT did not assist Caricom in this juncture. Although we are here, we could have been here a lot earlier had our Government been willing to participate in these studies," she said.

AMOR member Brother Nakhid said, "We may have started last, but this race is not for the swiftest and we will endure."

Attorney and member of AMOR Jessse Daniel said it was not enough to decriminalise marijuana, but it should also be legalised.

Daniel said a directive should be issued towards law enforcement officers not to arrest and charge people for small quantities of marijuana until the law was amended.

He said charging people for possession of marijuana for personal use only clogged the judicial system and was a waste of manpower. He said allowing people to carry a small amount of the herb would give the police more time and space to go after the hardened criminals.

AMOR is also asking for the expunging of the records of all those who have been convicted of marijuana-related offences and served their sentences.

"As a probation officer for many years you see the number of lives that were messed up because the police caught them with a stick of marijuana or a 'roach'. Some of them end up in YTC (Youth Training Centre) or, if over 18, they end up in the prisons. When we consider, over the years, there have been so many cries against the police who knew what would happen to young people by planting a joint in their pocket.

"I recognise the police do a very dangerous and thankless job. I understand the risk they are involved in, but it was the police who used to go into communities where there were no problems and creating problems by rounding them up like cattle and searching them to see who has a 'spliff' in their pocket and you become a criminal.

"When the youth push back we have to understand that that is a result of ongoing years of persecution and prosecution by the police. The police have on their side numbers, protective gear, a larger support base, better training... the police should be trained to disarm first," he said.

Daniel said with the legalisation of marijuana it would give the police more of a fighting chance to go after the real criminals. He said the "big budget" the National Security Ministry had been getting could now go to Social Development. He said it would also free up the courts and let the judges deal with the real matters at hand.

He said Government should allow people to grow a marijuana plant in their own surroundings which would see the black market decrease.

AMOR said, as was recommended in the Caricom marijuana report, that special concessions should be given to small farmers and businesses to be included in the marijuana industry.

In their ten-point recommendations, AMOR said a regulated local cannabis sector could be established which would contribute to the diversification of the economy, creation of new products and generation of employment.

They said there should be new legislation that guaranteed and protected the right of Rastafarians to use cannabis as its holy sacrament, and there should be reparatory justice for the Rastafarian community for atrocities committed by the state.

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