Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday, on Monday, said he was concerned about the “haste” with which the government is moving to pass legislation to establish a medical marijuana industry in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
He made the comments on his weekly radio appearance on New Times, his New Democratic Party’s daytime show on NICE Radio.
Friday said that he had attended that morning a meeting of the select committee, comprised of government and opposition lawmakers who are reviewing the three bills tabled in Parliament earlier this month.
The committee is also scheduled to meet all day Tuesday, said Friday, a lawyer and Member of Parliament for the Northern Grenadines.
“The idea, it seems, is to get these bills through as quickly as possible,” he told listeners.
“We had a very good session this morning, but my concern — and it is one that is shared by my colleagues and I — is that there seems to be a great haste to try and get these things done and I don’t think it is proper when you have these important legislations.”
He said that the bill should be done in such a way that “it is given not only the select committee’s attention but once we have discussed the bill and come up with the finalised version of it, that the people of the country know what is in it and have their feedback still, because nothing is final until it is voted [upon].
“So I feel that the haste that it is going through is not helpful and I don’t think it is appropriate in the circumstances, so I hope that the minister would take that into account.”
Friday said that the bills are “very weighty stuff.
“You are talking about transforming a commodity that was regarded as — you know, people were hounded and killed for growing and for transporting”.
The opposition leader said the bills are “a big deal”.
“So I will hope that more time will be given for that, not just the select committee but for the people to understand what’s in the bill, how it is going to function, who is going to benefit from it before it is debated in the Parliament.”
The select committee is debating the three bills that Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar, introduced in Parliament on Sept. 6.
The minister said The Medicinal Cannabis Industry Bill will regulate the supply and use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
The Cannabis Cultivation (Amnesty) Bill will provide for the grant of an amnesty for the period commencing Aug. 1, 2018 and ending July 31, 2019 or such further period as the House of Assembly may determine, by resolution, to persons engaged in the cultivation of cannabis contrary to Section 8 of the Drug Prevention of Misuse Act and any other relevant enactment, who may otherwise be liable to criminal prosecution for certain criminal offences and other proceeding under that act or any other relevant enactment in force.”
And, the Permitted Use of Cannabis for Religious Purpose Bill provides for the decriminalisation of the use of cannabis as sacrament in adherence to a religious practice by such religious bodies as may be prescribed by order of the minister including, but not limited to, the Rastafarian faith at their place of worship and at an event declared by order of the minister to be an exempt event for the purposes of this act and for matters and purposes incidental thereto.