Activists: New ganja law a small victory

In this October 14, 2018 file photo a man smokes marijuana during the All Mansions of Rastafari's cannabis rally at Woodford Square, Port of Spain. - CHOLAI
In this October 14, 2018 file photo a man smokes marijuana during the All Mansions of Rastafari's cannabis rally at Woodford Square, Port of Spain. - CHOLAI

CANNABIS activists have praised the proclamation of legislation to decriminalise use and possession in small amounts on Monday, but said that it is only the beginning.

"It is a start. Not the start we would have liked but is a start," said CEO of advocacy NGO Cannabis and You Javed Baksh.

He told Sunday Newsday on Friday with decriminalisation people will be able to legally have cannabis at home and use it (four plants per person and under 30 grammes of flower and under five grammes of resin) but this has already been happening.

"People been doing that for how many years. They get it at home and use it at home. Some have grown in their residences. I have it grown years ago."

He explained that one plant can produce more than 30 grammes and Government was therefore asking people to destroy product.

"It will be a bunch of wastage."

Baksh, also the owner of GrassLabs which specialises in hemp-based cannabidiol supplements, said his main focus is on getting licences where he can import and do retail sales easily, which will be the focus of the Cannabis Control Bill that has been sent to a joint select committee (JSC).

Baksh also said the decriminalisation will not put a stop to the black market cannabis trade and the only way to do that would be to legalise the substance.

"Most people will still get it from local the block men who may sell it cheaper. There will always have a competition just like in Jamaica which has legal dispensaries."

He added if it is legal then everyone can have a part in the industry.

All Mansions of Rastafari PRO Quilin Achat said the decriminalisation is a small victory.

"There is a lot to be done regarding the Rastafarian communituy. But citizens will no longer be oppressed for cannabis use for medicinal or wellness."

She stressed that the organisation does not use the term "recreational" as cannabis helps to relieve stress which is a killer, and she compared it to drinking a glass of wine.

"Smoking is a God-given right," she added.

She said All Mansions is still waiting on the JSC to hear about the liberties for Rastafarians as the proposed regulations and licensing regimes still have a lot of red tape to cross.

"It is a small victory but not the whole battle."

Cannabis activist Nazma Muller said she was very happy with the decriminalisation.

"The herb will be free."

She said that it is a sacrament for Rastafarians and many Hindus. She added that Government should have engaged in a mass education programme a year and a half ago and now the education should not be done by police but the Health Ministry, Agriculture Ministry and stakeholders.

She added she was hoping to make submissions to the JSC on the Cannabis Control Bill.

Cannabis expert and government consultant Marcus Ramkissoon said cannabis users in the country are very happy.

"We have gotten the chance to consume the product which we have been doing for years and not have the risk of going to prison or gaining a criminal record for using this plant."

He also said users are extremely happy that cannabis has been brought closer to the level of alcohol which is a similar substance but does not have that level of criminality. He said the decriminalisation should be applauded from a social justice perspective as about 160,000 people in the past two decades would have criminal records for possession barring them tertiary education in TT or abroad, from a US visa or to get into most jobs.

"To take them out of the rut of having a criminal record, that is a huge move."


"Activists: New ganja law a small victory"

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