The CARICOM Marijuana Commission, which has recommended legalisation of the plant for all uses, says it sees a two-pronged route to law reform in the region.
“On the one hand, it visualises a more liberalised regime for those states that have already initiated law reform, or which believe that they have the institutional capacity for the full removal of prohibition in the manner described.
“For others, a more incremental approach is envisaged. However, certain key denominators or minimum standards should inform both approaches, as outlined above. Several law reform models with varying degrees of regulation are discussed in the Report to guide CARICOM states,” the commission said in the report it presented to CARICOM leaders earlier this month.
The commission said that a private/public partnership model is envisaged which allows states to have important roles in regulation and control of distribution and production, but is balanced enough to stimulate cottage industries and entrepreneurship.
“The risk of over-commercialisation, which could stimulate irresponsible demand, is discouraged,” the report said, adding that a central-government-run regulatory authority should be established to manage the private/public partnership process, with authority to issue licences, monitor production including strains of cannabis, and quality of product, supervise distribution, supply and dedicated retail centres.
“Limits should be placed upon the amount of cannabis that may be purchased at a given time,” the commission said, noting that this is the model used in Uruguay, the United States, The Netherlands, and Spain.
The commission said that marketing and licensing arrangements should be established.
“Where states adopt a more liberalised regime, the Commission cautions against an over-commercialised model within a free market economy, especially where foreign firms are involved. Such a model will also require more detailed regulations on production, supply, monitoring of product, marketing etc., as discussed infra.
“International Drug Conventions have been labelled ‘redundant’ and dysfunctional even by UN bodies and now lack the legitimacy and consensus to seriously challenge law reform,” the commission said.
It said that international treaty instruments derive their authority from consensus in the international sphere, thus the fact that so many countries, including important allies like Canada, have deviated from them, undermines their authority.
“Further, in accordance with recent case law (Myrie) and established international law jurisprudence, they may be challenged on the basis that they violate domestic human rights norms.
“These treaties now provide weak opposition to restrict change and are themselves in transition. Consequently, CARICOM should not consider itself bound by these obsolete, obstructive treaty obligations, but should work with allies such as Canada, Uruguay and other Latin American states, to modify them.”
The commission concluded that, in 2018, there are now deep rationales for law reform of the “harmful, ineffective and unjust prohibitionist legal regime that currently informs cannabis, supported by strong public opinion and credible scientific and empirical data and analysis.
“These rationales will provide legitimacy to new laws in ways that the current legal framework lacks. The Commission also recommends that CARICOM member states work together to formulate a formal, regional position on the need to amend the existing UN treaties that govern cannabis.
“In the interim, member states should declare that the treaties contravene human rights principles in CARICOM states, so as to ground a justification for avoiding treaty obligations
“Moreover, an approach to substitute the current draconian, counterproductive prohibitionist law regime on cannabis in favour of a public health/rights focussed approach is one that CARICOM Heads of Government have themselves embraced since 2002. The time is ripe for this commitment to be realised,” the report said.