Trinidad and Tobago Decriminalizes Cannabis

The government has made it legal for citizens to possess up to thirty grams of cannabis.

The President of Trinidad and Tobago, Paula-Mae Weekes, will soon sign a new bill into law that will decriminalize cannabis, in a first for the Caribbean island.

The legislation, which is known as the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2019, was passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate after a marathon debate.

During a speech that was made before the House of Representatives, the country's Attorney-General, Faris Al-Rawi, explained that the purpose of the bill is to reduce the prison population and lower the costs associated with marijuana-related incarceration, while also re-directing law enforcement resources towards more serious crimes.

In addressing the reform of the criminal justice system, many have ignored the profound effect that decriminalization of certain offenses can have in the criminal justice system.

Trinidad and Tobago Attorney-General, Faris Al-Rawi

Additionally, the newly passed legislation will provide a pathway for individuals who have been previously convicted of cannabis-related crimes to have their possession records cleared if they petition the court.

The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley, subsequently announced that the Cabinet has approved a proclamation date for the legislation of 23 December 2019.

"Once it is proclaimed a new state will exist, and that will allow us to do a number of things including allowing persons who are incarcerated for the minimum quantities to be released—and persons who have to get their records expunged—there is a process," Dr Rowley said.

Under the approved version of the bill, citizens of Trinidad and Tobago may now legally possess up to thirty grams of cannabis or five grams of cannabis resin.

Any individual found with between thirty and sixty grams—or ten grams of cannabis resin—will be found guilty of a summary offense and issued a fixed fine of approximately USD$200. Once the fine is paid, the government has confirmed that law enforcement authorities will not make any attempt to arrest, convict, or imprison offenders.

The government is also considering a separate piece of legislation—the Cannabis Control Bill 2019—which would allow for the sale, usage and distribution of cannabis for medical, religious and research purposes.

If the legislation is passed, then a government regulatory agency will be established with the responsibility of issuing and regulating licenses for cultivators, processors, dispensaries and exporters.

The Cannabis Control Bill would also require any company issued with a license to be at least 30% locally owned to, "avoid the abuses that occurred with multinational domination in other territories."

"The government, after significant research, wide stakeholder consultation and careful legislative scrutiny, is of the firm view that it is the correct time to amend the Dangerous Drugs Act and to cause the strict licensing and regulation of the research, cultivation, supply and commercialization of marijuana through the establishment of a Cannabis Control Authority," Attorney-General Al-Rawi said.

However, in its current form the legislation does not establish a framework for the creation of a recreation market.

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Hugo Gray
Hugo Gray

Hugo Gray is a Melbourne-based journalist with a body of work that covers a diverse range of topics, including immigration law, sex technology, and now the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.

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