The Commission’s report which was presented to the Office of the Prime Minister in January, was followed by a meeting between Cabinet members and members of the Commission on Monday, February 18 in Nevis, where several of the recommendations were further discussed.
The accepted recommendations include, a proposal to amend the Drugs Act, having regard to scientific developments since the Act was passed in 1986; the use of cannabis and its derivatives for medicinal and scientific purposes permitted under license and a strict legislated regime; penalty for possession of less than 15 grams of cannabis be reduced to a ticketable offence without a criminal record; penalty for the growth of less than 5 plants per household should be reduced to a ticketable office without a criminal record, as well as the creation of a massive public messaging programme prior to any changes in the law and continuing thereafter informing the public of the benefits and risks and the potential harm to young persons regarding the use of cannabis.
At the February 20 sitting of the National Assembly, Prime Minister Harris said the National Marijuana Commission was “judicious and sensible in their recommendations” and noted that, the acceptance of the recommendations by the National Marijuana Commission will require fundamental changes to existing laws which the Cabinet will have to consider carefully and have further consultations.
Notably, the prime minister said the Commission could not agree that cannabis should be legalized for religious purposes or that it should be legalized for recreational purposes.
“The Cabinet considers therefore that a phased approach is advisable taking the unanimous recommendations of the Commission as our first steps and thereafter consider the other areas on which unanimity could not be achieved, and that would be the prudent approach to take,” the prime minister added.
In practical terms, Prime Minister Harris said his Cabinet will consider and consult further on creating the framework for the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes and for the development of the medical cannabis industry in St. Kitts and Nevis.
“At the same time, it means that those found with under 15 grams of cannabis or growing less than 5 plants would receive ticketable offences only, and of course their criminal record would not reflect adversely with respect to these. Those currently in prison on convictions for small amounts [of 15 grams] should have their sentences reviewed and anyone convicted for such small amounts would have their conviction records appropriately cleared up,” Prime Minister Harris said.
The Prime Minister thanked the members of the National Marijuana Commission on the quality of their final report “which has established important sign posts and given guidance to my Government” and stated that this approach of widespread consultation on a controversial issue, such as cannabis, adopted by this Government will become the model for addressing such issues in a modern democratic society such as St. Kitts and Nevis.
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