The prison officer spoke of the challenges preventing prohibited items such as marijuana and cellphone from entering the prison. (Internet photo)

The CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana does not support the reform of marijuana law that focuses only on medical marijuana — as has been proposed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“A too limited approach to law reform, including one that focuses only on medical marijuana, would be counterproductive and inimical to the goals of Caribbean development, as outlined in the SDGs and endorsed by CARICOM.

“Consequently, there is consensus that all criminal penalties from marijuana laws should be removed. If only decriminalisation is envisaged, reasonable fines and compulsory rehabilitative treatment should be substituted. This will also immunise cannabis/marijuana sales and profits from the current trajectory where they are treated as proceeds of crime under anti-money laundering and proceeds of crime legislation,” the report said.

The report, compiled after four years of research across the region, was presented to CARICOM heads at their meeting in Jamaica this month.

It said that given the clear scientific support for the medical benefits of marijuana, its use for medical purposes should be legalised.

“This should occur within special regulatory conditions for the use of marijuana for commercial medicinal purposes, (despite the fact that other nutraceutical products are not regulated), the provision of public health facilities for users in need of it and well supervised supply, marketing, branding, packaging arrangements, etc.”

The Commission recommended that marijuana smoking and other uses should be banned in all public spaces, whether in a decriminalised or legalised regime.

“CARICOM could consider the establishment of designated or contained public spaces for this purpose, as occurs in The Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. However, this was not considered a priority for the commission. The exception to the ban on public use should be for Rastafarians who should be able to practice their faith in designated public spaces.”

The Commission is of the view that possession and use in private households and for personal use only should be decriminalised.

“In doing so, it concurs with the many law enforcement personnel who believe that effectively enforcing prohibitionist laws in private households is near impossible. It is an opinion reinforced by recent judicial precedents on the rights to health as demonstrated by the upholding of the freedom to grow and use cannabis for personal medical use and on the right to privacy.

“Given these precedents, limited home-growing for a small number of plants should be permitted. A number of legislated models permitting home-growing already exist, including in Uruguay, Colorado, and Washington and in the Caribbean, Jamaica, and Antigua and Barbuda.”

The Commission also recommended access to limited amounts of cannabis in strictly controlled retail outlets.

While the commission has recommended that marijuana be legalised but regulated much like alcohol, it was also unanimous in its view that children and young persons must be protected from possible adverse effects of cannabis.

“Consequently, prohibition for children and young persons within an appropriate age limit should be maintained except for medical reasons; However, young people who use marijuana should be directed to treatment and diversion programs rather than being prosecuted or criminalised,” the report said.

There was no dissension among members of the commission that drug-driving laws and mechanisms should be put in place to prevent persons from driving under the influence.

“These are futuristic and mechanisms would need to be developed to enable this objective, the report said, adding that the law much also ensure unhindered access to cannabis/marijuana for scientific and medical research by approved institutions and researchers.

“The law should enact legal definitions of hemp based on low THC levels and make clear distinctions between hemp and other varieties of cannabis, ensuring that all legal sanctions are removed from hemp and hemp production, so as to encourage a hemp industry.”

Regarding the environment, the commission said that concerns about the environment from inappropriate methods of land use for growing cannabis would also need to be addressed.