Barbados could very well get the research it says it needs to make a decision on decriminalising marijuana, as a regional commission of marijuana sets out to look into the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding use of the drug.
But the recommendations of that commission will not be available for at least another year.
That is the minimum time it is expected for the body to carry out its work, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General Irwin LaRocque said last night.
On their first day of business yesterday at the Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa, Heads of Government approved the terms of reference for the commission.
However, exactly how that body will be composed has not yet been determined although LaRocque said those who sit on the commission would be “experts in their particular fields”. There is also no start date, even though the Secretary General said it was hoped the commission would be ready to do its work by the end of 2014.
“We reckon that the work of the commission, given the nature of the topic at hand, would take at the very least a year. It will entail extensive consultation within the community,” he said.
“No position has been taken at all with regards to marijuana one way or another . . . The commission will determine what recommendations to make based on objective analysis and consultations within the Community. It is not a predetermined end. It is to conduct a rigorous enquiry into the circumstances of the use and the implications for the use of marijuana in the Community.”
Jamaica has announced intentions to decriminalise small quantities of marijuana for personal use.
But Barbados’ Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite has insisted that this country will not jump on the bandwagon of marijuana legalisation without appropriate research that weighs the pros and cons.
“We will not [decriminalise] because it is fashionable or because our neighbours next door in many ways have lost the fight and have decided that this is the best solution,” he said at a church service in January during Drug Awareness Month.
Speaking to the media yesterday, outgoing CARICOM Chairman Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines told reporters that in the absence of recommendations from the regional commission on marijuana, “it seems counterproductive to ignore the potential of an industry in respect of medical marijuana and to continue to expend police, national security and court resources on persons who consume a miniscule amount of marijuana in the privacy of their homes”.
“There are persons who have been criminalized for smoking a joint. With all the years of experience I have and all the studies I have to this matter, that seems to me to be entirely counterproductive and we need to have a serious conversation about that. You don’t need to have an absolutely moral position on it . . . . At the same time whatever programme is done, we have to speak about the negative side of marijuana and we have to deal with the educational and health issues attendant upon the misuse and abuse of marijuana.”
Speaking at a Press conference where he gave the media a briefing on the leaders’ work yesterday, LaRocque said they also received their first report on the work of the Reparations Commission from the prime ministerial sub-committee led by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
That discussion continued today. The leaders also met in caucus to look at CARICOM’s Strategic Plan for 2015-2019.