Caribbean leaders have agreed to draft a framework which could lead to the eventual legalization of recreational marijuana.
This was revealed by Attorney General Dale Marshall, who said that while the recent move does not “bind” any particular state to such a move, it is a clear indication that the region intends to move in that direction.
The lawmaker, however, noted that Barbados still remained commited to taking the final cue from Barbadians through a referendum to ultimately decide if recreational marijuana use will be legalized here.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of the 143rd Passing Out Parade and Graduation Ceremony at the Regional Police Training Centre, Marshall said Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean could no longer bury their head in the sand.
“I can say to you that CARICOM, at our recent security heads meeting, took a decision that CARICOM would develop a model law for recreational use of marijuana. Now that’s not binding on any individual state, but the fact is that as a region I think it is fair to say that the heads recognize that there is perhaps an inexorable move towards allowing people to have the ability to keep small quantities of marijuana for recreational use,” the Attorney General told Barbados TODAY.
“Jamaica has gone that way, Antigua has already gone that way and I don’t need to tell anybody that Canada has legalized recreational marijuana and many other states in the US. We can’t bury our heads in the sand. There is a reality that we recognize and also there are social issues.”
Marshall said while Barbados had already agreed to legalize medical cannabis, Government intended to allow the public to determine whether or not they wanted to go the recreational marijuana route.
“First of all let me say that the Government of Barbados has taken the firm position that we are going to legitimize medical cannabis. So that’s a yes,” Marshall maintained.
“In relation to where we go in terms of recreational use of marijuana we have committed to going to the people by way of a referendum to get the views of the public to inform and direct the decision that we might make.”
Respected attorney-at-law Queen’s Counsel Andrew Pilgrim told Barbados TODAY the time had come to put an end to persons being hauled before the law courts for being in possession of small quantities of marijuana.
He contended that it simply made no sense.
“It’s upsetting to me how we continue to pretend that dealing with small quantities of marijuana or any marijuana is a big priority for the Royal Barbados Police Force. It seems like everywhere else in the world now it is accepted that people can have small quantities for personal use and in the countries that we pretend to emulate – the first world countries – have all moved in that direction and our Caribbean colleagues have moved in that direction,” Pilgrim said.
“Why do we have to be last? Criminalizing little boys driving round in a car with a handful of marijuana going up to prison for two weeks, it’s such a disgrace. We have to come into the first world and the 21st century.”
The attorney said it made more sense to educate persons about the use of drugs so that people could make proper, educated choices about what substances they want to put into their bodies.
However, in response, the Attorney General said for that to occur there would have to be legislative changes.
“For as long as we have possession of marijuana as a criminal offence a person who has even the smallest quantity of marijuana will run the risk of being criminalized.
“It is alright for Mr Pilgrim to say that police should not charge, but I don’t want it at the whim and fancy of any police officer. A police officer who sees somebody committing an offence and turns a blind eye to it could well be committing a criminal offence himself,” Marshall explained.
“So what we have to do is to put a structure in place and part of that structure could involve the legalization of recreational marijuana, but to say that police should stop charging people I don’t think that’s necessarily the best approach.”