THE House of Representatives on Monday night passed the Senate's amendments from last Friday to the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2019 which decriminalises the personal use of cannabis.
The brief debate mulled how past convictions for personal possession will be pardoned by the bill and whether the Attorney General had any conflict of interest in piloting cannabis laws, including the Cannabis Control Bill.
The House had sent to a Joint Select Committee this latter bill to regulate the cannabis industry, after which a West Indian Cannabis Company was unearthed as registered to Al-Rawi’s wife’s relative and her husband who in turn said it was just a clothing company.
Caroni Central MP Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie urged automatic pardons for cannabis convictions, otherwise facing a costly process of hiring attorneys to wipe clean their slates. “It should not be made difficult or cumbersome but as easy as possible.” Al-Rawi retorted the Privy Council in the “Lendore” case had said you cannot treat people en masse.
In asking about Al-Rawi's connection to the West Indian Cannabis Company, Tewarie said, “I have no reason to doubt the AG at all, but because this has become a public and controversial matter, I want to raise issues that occurred in the debate we need to take into account in considering this matter.” He related how the AG had once said the PM was dead set against cannabis decriminalisation, but was cut off by Government chief whip, Camille Robinson Regis on relevance. Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George agreed.
Tewarie said the AG himself had earlier raised the matter by declaring no conflict of interest, so he should now be able to reply. The Speaker refused.
Tewarie tussled with Bridgid Annisette-George for a few minutes.
“I feel the conflict of interest matter is not settled,” Tewarie said. Robinson-Regis objected. The Speaker refused to hear more on any conflict of interest.
Tewarie said, “I cannot take the statement of the AG and will sit down.”
The AG later addressed this. “It is a fantasy that I could have any pecuniary interest in debating this bill. My wife has a very large family and I can’t claim to know what they do.”
Al-Rawi hailed the Prime Minister’s courage in supporting the bill. “I think this is good law. It is way past its time, The country would be better off. I am not in favour of smoking cannabis.”
He said parents and schools need be aware of certain things. “One day more in incarceration for small quantities is one day too much. I beg to move.”
The bill now goes to the President of the Republic for assent and proclamation.