Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary of Finance and the Economy, Joel Jack is of the view that it may be premature to use the decriminalisation of marijuana to attract tourists to Tobago.
The Dangerous Drug (Amendment) Act 2019 came into effect on December 23 allowing the legal use of 30 grammes of marijuana per person and up to four marijuana plants per person in each household. The legislation was proclaimed by President Paula-Mae Weekes on December 20.
Speaking with Newsday on Sunday, Jack said citizens and visitors can use their private space to light up within the legal limits. However, in the absence of the passing of the Cannabis Control Bill – currently before a Joint Select Committee – it is still illegal to purchase marijuana.
Asked where citizens can source marijuana upon its decriminalisation on December 23, Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Fitzgerald Hinds said citizens can grow it.
"The law says you are entitled to have four plants in your home – there is where you will get your 30 grammes. Or from your neighbours. That is not a difficult issue. That is where you will get it," Hinds said.
Until the Cannabis Control Bill, which deals with regulatory control for the handling of the herb for certain purposes, the establishment of the Cannabis Licensing Authority and connected matters, is passed, tourists who want to use marijuana in Tobago still cannot purchase it legally.
“It may be premature to posit this new legislation as a mechanism for attracting and motivating tourists to visit Tobago,” Jack said.
Jack, currently vying for leadership of the PNM Tobago Council, believes the benefit of the ganja law will be felt in easing the burden of the criminal justice system.
“Based on the statistics provided by the Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago, I am persuaded that the decriminalisation of the possession of certain quantities of cannabis and cannabis resin, within the parameters espoused in the legislation will achieve its objective to positively improve the administration of the criminal justice system.”
Last week two Tobago minors on marijuana charges saw their bails reduced to $500 each. There cases were also identified as eligible for full discharge according to new law. The Dangerous Drug (Amendment) Act 2019 allows those convicted for less than 100 grammes of marijuana and ten grammes of cannabis resin to apply for a release and their records expunged.
Jack reminded Tobagonians that it is important to note that the use of marijuana in public places is strictly prohibited.
“A perusal of the legislation reveals that a public place outlined in the Act is broadly defined and so, although decriminalised, persons in possession of cannabis would still need to be extremely cautious as to where they partake in the substance.”
Jack called upon citizens to take the time to read up on the new measures and adhere to them, “because while it allows for new freedoms for adults, it provides protection for our children and we must protect them from any kind of substance abuse, especially in their formative years.”