POLICE officers were looking for higher stakes evidence when they entered the home of Goomatee Ragbir, arriving on Wednesday with a warrant to search for guns and ammunition. Ragbir once served as the housekeeper of former attorney general Anand Ramlogan. Ragbir had no weapons, but her son, Kevin, ended up in court after officers found two buckets with marijuana plants and 4.1 grammes of dried marijuana. He faced San Fernando magistrate Joanne Connor and had to pay up $3,250 for having marijuana in his home and for cultivating it there.
Someone, somewhere, might find this to be a just and sensible use of police time and the resources of the court, and magistrate Connor had no leeway at all in considering a clear-cut case in which the plaintiff pleaded guilty. But the matter calls into continued question the laws governing personal marijuana use, which Kevin Ragbir’s case so clearly illustrates.
Public consultations on the decriminalisation of marijuana have drawn a spirited response from pro-cannabis enthusiasts. That movement has at least one NGO working to change the legislation, All Mansions of Rastafari, who are pressing to go beyond decriminalisation to formal legalisation of the plant and for marijuana-related crimes to be expunged from the records of individuals. The Rastafarian community might claim cannabis use as part of its sacrament, but it cannot be argued that for most who use the prepared herb, relaxation and recreation is the primary goal.
And it isn’t just the TT government considering legislation favouring controlled but legal marijuana use in the region. Caricom members discussed the value of unified legislation for the region at the 19th Conference of Heads of State and Governments of the Caribbean Community on Security in May. There was some consensus that a model bill for the region should be produced which would create a common understanding while allowing individual member states to adapt it appropriately.
There are two key value propositions to making personal marijuana use legal. Illegal black markets thrive when there is a range of product available. Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in the world and provides a bedrock for the illegal drug trade. Making it legal and controllable, thereby removing it from the underground drug trade through commercialising is just good sense.
After Colorado made marijuana legal for medical and recreational use in 2014, it earned US$135 million in tax revenues on sales of $996 million in its first year. A legal recreational drug is, it turns out, more profitable too.
It's hard to understand why successive governments have dragged their feet on ending this front on a pointless war on drugs that's long been proven to be unwinnable.