‘In between’ stage of ganja laws causing too much uncertainty and distress
THE PRODUCTION and use of marijuana, for whatever purposes, have long been illegal in St Vincent and the Grenadines and indeed, around the world. The age-old biases and prejudices have over the years fuelled policies and practices of the prosecution and even persecution of many, mostly young and poor persons in our society.
Many there are who have suffered at the hands of the police and state, who have been fined and jailed for marijuana possession and use. As a result, debates have long been taking place for a more enlightened approach to marijuana. Some have urged various approaches ranging from tolerance, legalisation and even going further to the establishment of a modern cannabis industry.
The government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, after careful consideration, has decided to opt for a multi- faceted approach which involves the setting up of a modern medicinal cannabis industry along with varying state responses such as an amnesty for traditional marijuana farmers and non-prosecution of persons for the possession of miniscule quantities of the substance.
Laws have been passed to this effect and the fledgling industry is well on its way with a number of persons and enterprises already receiving licences for legal production of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Expectations of a major economic boost have already been generated, yet many societal contradictions and hurdles remain.
The recent arrest in North Leeward of a farmer and the destruction of
his marijuana farm as well as quantities of marijuana expose these contradictions. It leads to the charge that perhaps the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing and causing further confusion in the society.
The Prime Minister has attempted to explain the situation by saying that although the relevant laws have been passed they have not yet been proclaimed for what he called “administrative reasons”. He has also promised that the amnesty will be activated “soon” and has urged that the police adopt a “sensible approach” to the matter.
PM Gonsalves also has responsibility for the police as Minister of National Security so persons must be baffled by the waffling on the issue. It is true that in the absence of the proclamation, marijuana cultivation is still illegal so, technically, the police are in order. But there is a clear state policy on the matter, so what can the problem be?
We would simply urge the powers that be to move quickly to clarify the situation, to have the relevant proclamations done including the amnesty for traditional growers and non-prosecution of persons for possession of small quantities. This in-between stage is causing too much uncertainty and distress among members of the public. We cannot have a government proclaiming policies in one direction and the police acting in another. Worse, we cannot afford to taint the new industry with charges of political or class bias.