by Linda Straker
- Only 2 stakeholders out of 20 groups invited attended Ministry of Agriculture event
- Michael Baptiste, representing the ROC prefers to see legislation of cannabis
- ROC wants minimum of 100 trees
- Rastafarians will be able to use the herb solely for religious purposes
A representative from the Rastafarian community believes that Grenada needs to move quickly and approve the amendment to the Drug Abuse (Prevention and Control) Act which will allow for the use of cannabis by Rastafarians in places of worship. It also provides for people who have attained the age of 18 years to produce, supply, or offer to supply a small amount of cannabis.
Michael Baptiste, who was representing the Rastafarian Organisation for Centralisation (ROC), will prefer to see legislation of cannabis. “We need the government to be more precise towards the cannabis industry and to stop the lagging and the foot-dragging on the issue…If we don’t move quick enough, the market will leave us,” he said in an interview after the recently held consultation organised by the Ministry of Agriculture.
“The issue about decriminalisation and all of those things, I feel, is irrelevant. Marijuana is a plant, and no man in the world, no Government has the right to say this plant is illegal. They have been extorting the people of Grenada on this marijuana issue,” said Baptiste as he called for the immediate removal of cannabis or marijuana as a dangerous drug.
“Come clear to the people of Grenada, clear to the people of the world and let them know that it’s all-natural. We have the best grade in Grenada, and we will produce the best grade,” he said while promising that members of his community are willing to go with the proposed regulations for the decriminalisation of the plant.
He believes that Rastafarians should be part of the research process to develop cannabis-related products. “With 5 trees, we cannot do that, so we are asking the government for us to start with a minimum of 100 trees because trees don’t just grow like that. It takes time; some are male, some is female, and selecting the seeds takes time. With 5 trees, we will never reach a level thing in Grenada. We have to take a quantum leap in that area and market,” he said.
The proposed amendment to the Drug Abuse legislation was presented to the House of Parliament for the first reading in November 2021. It is one of the few pieces of legislation to experience consultations with stakeholders while awaiting second and final reading in the Lower House of Parliament.
It is unclear when the legislation will be approved in the Lower House and then forwarded to the Upper House for debate and approval. The legislation, which Agriculture Minister Peter David tabled, contains 6 amendments and one new insertion.
The main objectives of the amendments are to allow anyone over 18 to possess 28 grams or 0.987671 ounces of marijuana and allow each homeowner over the age of 18 to grow no more than 5 trees. Rastafarians will be able to use the herb solely for religious purposes as a sacrament in adherence to the Rastafarian faith and at a place of worship.
Though the legislation allows people to be in possession of marijuana, smoking in a public place will be prohibited. A person who smokes or uses cannabis or cannabis resin in a public place commits an offence, and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of EC$500.
However, the Minister under whose portfolio the law will fall may by Order prescribe a list of approved public places where the smoking of cannabis or cannabis resin may be allowed.
According to the amendment, a person who, whilst under the influence of cannabis — operates, navigates, or is in actual physical control of any motor vehicles, aircraft, or ship; or does anything which constitutes negligence, professional malpractice or professional misconduct commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of EC$500.
Lauren St Louis, Senior Agriculture Officer who has responsibilities for the development of the cannabis industry, said that the consultation was the ministry’s way of gathering the views from those who will be affected directly and indirectly when marijuana is decriminalised.
“We are trying to get the opinion of everybody who is involved, all the stakeholders,” she said while pointing out that that invitation was sent to more than 20 groups, but only 2 attended the event. The other group attending the consultation was the Grenada Trades Union Council (GTUC).