Despite Government’s liberal position on the legalisation of marijuana for sacramental and medicinal purposes, no decision will be made on recreational marijuana without consent from the general population, Prime Minister Mia Mottley has promised.
During debate on the Sacramental Cannabis Bill 2019, Mottley declared that although political leaders from various parties appear supportive of full legalisation, her administration would not deviate from its original position that a referendum would inform the final decision.
“We said in this same manifesto that we were going to legalise medicinal cannabis and go to referendum on recreational cannabis. Mr. Speaker, it is to my knowledge that the leader of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) supports the decriminalisation of recreational cannabis. The leader of the opposition and myself have spoken and it is for him to speak for himself, but I am confident that the truth is that there is far more consensus on these issues in this country than people might think,” Mottley said.
“But in spite of consensus at the political level, our party took a view that as a matter of governance, 30 people sitting in a parliament cannot bind society to fundamental change on certain issues and we would not take action in advance of consulting the people of this country.”
The Prime Minister pointed to the government of Trinidad and Tobago, which recently passed legislation to decriminalize the plant without a referendum, joining Jamaica and Antigua and Barbuda.
“All Barbadians will have a chance to be able to go and to vote and they will have the chance to say, ‘Yes, it should be decriminalised or no, it should not be decriminalised’, and with everything else, we shall live by the result of that verdict,” said Mottley.
As she promised Barbadians their right to an opinion on the issue, she expressed concern about the amount of space being occupied by marijuana-related cases in the criminal courts but maintained a very “measured” and “orderly” approach would be taken on the matter.
During a near 45-minute address to Parliament, the PM sought to allay fears about the consumption of marijuana by minors, arguing that even for medicinal and sacramental purposes, youth would not be allowed to partake.
“Mr. Speaker Sir, there is no doubt that alcohol is not good for young children. There is equally no doubt that cannabis or smoking cigarettes is not good for young children and any attempt to provide for either medicinal or sacramental cannabis is not an invitation for young people to be involved and we will do our best to ensure that all Barbadians take responsibility for protecting our young people,” she stressed, while arguing that the same principles which applied to alcohol use could be transferred to cannabis consumption.
“The fact that it is not good for young people to drink alcohol has not stopped this country from selling alcohol from St Lucy to St Philip and from St James to St John and from St Michael to St Joseph, because we understand there are certain things young people shouldn’t do and there are certain things old people should not do. There is a time and place for everything and we have to be able to manage our families, manage our communities, and manage our countries in a way that is sensitive to these things.”