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Three cannabis BIlls get first reading in Parliament

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Three bills concerning the fate of marijuana in this country had their first reading in Parliament last week Thursday.

The bills were moved by Saboto Caesar, the minister of Agriculture.

The first bill, ‘Medicinal Cannabis Industry Bill’, “provides for the establishment of a medicinal cannabis industry to regulate the supply, possession and use of cannabis for medicinal purposes; that is for the treatment of persons with qualifying medical conditions.”

It also provides for the establishment of a Medicinal Cannabis Authority and the Medicinal Cannabis Advisory Council.

The agriculture minister also introduced the ‘Cannabis Cultivation (Amnesty) Bill’ which provides for the grant of an amnesty for the period commencing on August 1, 2018 to July 31, 2019, to persons engaged in the cultivation of cannabis, contrary to Section 8 of the Drug Prevention of Misuse Act.

“This bill provides for an amnesty which relates to the cultivation and possession of cannabis and is designed to grant a reprieve to persons who have illegally cultivated cannabis on or before the amnesty period by providing such persons with an opportunity to surrender their crop or harvest upon the issuance of a traditional cultivation license,” Caesar said.

The third bill is the ‘Permitted Use of Cannabis for Religious Purpose Bill’.

Caesar said the bill provides for the use of cannabis as a sacrament in relation to religious practices by religious bodies that include but are not limited to the Rastafarian faith, at their place of worship or at an event declared by the minister to be an exempt event for the purpose of the act.

The agriculture minister requested that all three bills be sent to one select committee.

And the committee comprises himself, Jaundy Martin, the attorney general; Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves; Camillo Gonsalves, the minister of Economic Planning and Finance; Jimmy Prince, the minister of Education; Luke Browne, minister of Health; Montgomery Daniel, minister of Housing; and Senator Carlos James from the left side of the House.

Dr Godwin Friday, the leader of the opposition; St Clair Leacock, the member for Central Kingstown; Nigel Stevenson, the member for South Leeward; Roland Matthews, member for North Leeward; and Senator Kay Bacchus-Baptiste will also be a part of the select committee.

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