Despite the disappointing turnout, the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs opened the floor on the issue of the Decriminalisation of Marijuana in TT with its third public meeting, the first to be held in Tobago.
The consultation held at the Penthouse of the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex in Scarborough got off to a slow start on Tuesday, as fewer than 30 people attended the event.
Questioned about the time and venue chosen for the event, as well as the limited advertising following the three-hour discussion, Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Fitzgerald Hinds said: “We’re pressed for time… we’re all pressed for time, so we tried to arrange a time that is most convenient to as many people as is possible.
“We had our consultations in Trinidad between 1 pm and 4 pm as we did here, and we found that we got good participation. Apart from that, we received submissions in writing, we received submissions by way of e-mails, we’re communicating through the media as well, so we’ve been having good feedback and today was no different in that sense.”
He, however, described the contributions as thought provoking.
“I thought it was quite thought provoking, the feedback that we got from the people was very, very useful. I personally learnt a lot and I have been to the previous two consultations and I felt more committed to be more careful as we plan this new regulatory environment. I benefited greatly from this exercise.
“I’ve come to realise that nothing is new under the sun. Some of the things I heard here today are unique but some of the things I heard here are really a repetition of what other people would naturally, logically, common-sensically feel on these matters so I don’t think we suffered any loss."
Also commenting on the timing of the discussions which some are viewing as an "election ploy," and the increasing pressure on Government to address the decriminalisation, as more countries around the world embrace the plant’s medical potential, the Minister said the Government had received a mandate.
“I have realised in this business of politics, that you can have the most pure and the most sincere of intentions, there would be those who misconstrue it or deliberately misconstrue it.
“These consultations were born out of the Caricom leaders asking a commission led by a panel of very distinguished commissioners who did a study and all of us as independent states in the Caribbean are mandated to take a look at that study for all our benefit. It is in that context that these consultations were born. The Prime Minister promised them a few months ago, we have already done two in Trinidad, we must have come to Tobago, otherwise we’ll be doing poorly and badly. We have come and we would continue in Trinidad gathering the ideas and the thoughts of the people,” he said.
Even with that, he noted that the decisions would not be taken hastily.
Hinds said, “The Prime Minister promised that we would have some legislative amendments or consideration in very short time, but we would not do it hastily, we would not do it prematurely, we would not jump the gun. We had to come to Tobago, we must go the Central Trinidad, we must go to South Trinidad, when those are done… we must do what has to be done so that the thing would not be premature and no one can justifiable heard to say that they did not have an opportunity to let their voice be heard in this very important process.”