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Patel Matthews

Member of Parliament for North Leeward, Roland “Patel” Matthews. (iWN file photo)

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Roland “Patel” Matthews, Member of Parliament for North Leeward, the hub of marijuana cultivation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, on Monday, called on Parliament to rid itself of the prohibitionist attitude toward marijuana and decriminalise possession of up to two grammes of the plant for recreational use.

He also said that residents of SVG should be allowed to have up to five plants at their home for medicinal or recreational use.

“And let us get rid of this prohibitionist view,” he told lawmakers as he debated the Medical Marijuana Bill, which was passed into law when it went to a vote one day later.

That piece of legislation, along with the Medical Marijuana Amnesty Bill, was being debated as traditional growers and users of marijuana demonstrated outside the Parliament building in Kingstown in support of and opposition to the bills.

“Even the bill itself is crafted in a manner as if marijuana is something that you have to handle with care or with some big gloves on your hand to make sure it ain’t touch your skin,” Matthews said.

“We have to change the mindset of our people, Mr. Speaker, and that is why education as a part of this thrust going forward is important to let our people understand that this marijuana plant that our grandparents have been using for donkey years to ease the pain, to get rid of the cold…” said Matthews a former teacher, who admitted experience in marijuana cultivation.”

He said that the bill made no provision for traditional medicine practitioners.

“The people in the village who used to boil this and that to help out — the herbalists. But I hope we can correct that going forward, Mr. Minister.”

Matthews noted that the CARICOM Marijuana Commission, set up on the urging of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, said in its report that there is overwhelming support for law reform moving away from the prohibition on cannabis and consequent criminalisation.

The commission further said the prohibition induces more harm than any other possible consequence of marijuana itself.

“Mr. Speaker, while I support our thrust to establish a medical marijuana industry, I also believe, Mr. Speaker, that we could have done better with this legislation,” Matthews said.

“Mr. Speaker, the Rastafari will tell you that they have been using marijuana for a long, long time.  We know for a fact that many who use recreational marijuana; to them it serves as an inspiration. Some meditate, some came up with songs.”

Matthews said that one of the problems in addressing the concerns of traditional farmers is land tenure.

He said that almost everyone in SVG who plants ganja does so in the forest reserve areas and asked where they will now grow the plant under the medical marijuana regime if they do not have access to land.

The legislator said he wants to see that traditional farmers are treated in a special way and for the state to offer leaseholds so that they, these farmers, can transition to the planting of medical marijuana.

Matthews said he does not want legislation that, in essence, forces traditional farmers to leave the marijuana industry.

“… appropriate land tenure and licencing strategies must be developed to assist small landless traditional farmers who currently squat.”

Matthews said that the commission noted that marijuana is a victimless crime, adding that this is one of the reasons why he supports the findings of the CARICOM Marijuana Commission.

“I go down the road with a spliff (marijuana cigarette) in my pocket and police lock me up. Who suffer? But then I pay monies and serve jail time; even longer than somebody who attempted rape or somebody who wound somebody. And that is the reason why I am in support of the CARICOM report that calls for serious law reform.”

He said that the NDP also believes that if they are going to talk about decriminalisation for up to two ounces, they should also talk about reparations for persons who were charged and had to pay fines for less than two ounces. We should find a way of compensating them, because it come like they spend bad money — reparatory justice. And we like to hear about that, right, Mr. Speaker.”

Gonsalves asked, from across the floor, who would pay the reparatory justice.

“Who charged them?” Matthews responded. “The state.”

He said that the NDP believes that while the nation is on this path and the world is changing rapidly “and everybody is going ganja crazy”, SVG has “an opportunity now to do something that the rest of the world can look and say, ‘that little island in the Caribbean has, indeed, led the way.’

“We’ve had Jamaica to look at, Antigua, to a lesser extent, states in the United States have all gone in a particular direction. We need to do more. We need to accept the fact that marijuana is here to stay and it is going to be a significant game changer in the future medicinally and recreationally,” he said, adding that SVG has a niche market in SVG.

He said that unlike bananas where the main market was Europe, medical and recreational marijuana have more markets than bananas.

“The world is going in a particular direction, it’s time we get on board and free up the herb.”

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8 replies on “‘Get rid of this prohibitionist view’ of weed — Patel”

  1. Patel Matthews before you can put these measures in place , you have to first put in place institutions to deal with the problems of addiction. What are you putting first the cart or the horse? It seems as if it’s the cart.

    1. I have never heard of addiction to Cannabis. I grew-up in the 1970s. All my friends smoked it. I often did myself. None of them smoke it now. They never had to go to treatment. No one ever got addicted and no one ever had any health problems from it. There is so much misinformation about cannabis. We will not ever have a fruitful discussion about it until we stop all the alarmist misinformation about the drug.

      I do not smoke it for many reasons: It burns my throat, It distorts reality, (I prefer reality). It takes away drive and initiative and it is a waste of time and money ( I have better things to do). I think that if people want those things, Go ahead, but they should be warned about what good things it can do to/for them and what bad things, but please stop all the FAKE information. I have seen people write things in the paper about cannabis where 90% is just fake news. Maybe someone should take these people to court and sue them.
      Now we have all the fake information going around SVG that farming ganja will make us rich. Just wait! Anyone that wants to jump on the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) train is free to do so, but remember, FAKE information can harm you just as much as any other mistake that we humans are inclined to make.

  2. It’s been legal here in Canada since October, sort of, more like regulated, but it’s legal to own and use, and sales have been brisk. Canada had also signed various international agreements on prohibition. There have been no consequences for breaking those. Over the last two months it’s been legal, I haven’t noticed anything different where I live. The weed itself though is quite different from when I last smoked it in the 70s, no resin per se, stronger varieties, but the flowers just crumble to touch. I preferred the soft pliable hashish of the 70, virtually pure resin. So the sky hasn’t fallen, and life is pretty much exactly what it was before it was legalized. Government took over the role of taxing it, controlling its distribution and sale. Citizens can grow four plants, but you can’t get legal seeds yet. April the Ontario government says. Companies, mostly huge companies, cultivate and grow plants in huge greenhouses under artificial lights, package it in childproof, resealable containers that look more expensive than what’s in them. I’m saving my containers for the four plants I grow outdoors next summer.

  3. The problem with legalization of Ganga in St Vincent it will result in.more guns coming in. Ganga farmers will resort to harsh measures to protect their turf. I can see the homicide rate increase exponentially. Let say from an average of 35 today to more than 300 in 2025.

  4. Alcoholism and diseases such as hypertension and organ failure in young Vincentians is rampant and are directly caused by this alcoholism .This has been happening for generations in Vincy and these NCD’s have put a strain on the government finances. Fully legalizing marijuana isn’t gonna cause more addictions .
    What seems to be the intent of the recent laws passed is to
    leave out the traditional poor weed farmers in Vincy (north Lee ward isn’t rich)and adapt a system that’s suited for the money people who are wanting to get on board.
    I totally support Mr Patel Matthew’s point

  5. Kenton i observed that you have changed the format of the discussion gotoum to the extent that the person who made a response is unknown. In the past you can respond to x ,y and z. However, the current format does allow for this. Any reason what the name of the person is not given?

    1. Jose,’

      Thank you for your comment. We have been having some issue over the past few days.
      The site in transition and some issues will crop up from time to time.
      We appreciate your patience.

      iWN Team

  6. In all these talk about Legalisation & decriminalisation of marijuana it is best if we learn some facts rather than speak in ignorance. Well here is a thing, a study by Duke University analysed the sperm samples of 12 men who used cannabis at least once a week. They found genetic changes linked to both growth and organ development. What of such results and recommendations?

    “Men should stop using cannabis for at least six months before they hope to father children, scientists have warned. Researchers took sperm samples from 12 men who used the drug at least once a week and found it altered the DNA of their swimmers.
    Changes were found in the DNA that codes for both growth and organ development, with such genetic mutations even being linked to cancer. Although unclear whether these changes may be passed on to their children, the scientists behind the study have advised men to assume the worst”.

    There is also much talk here in SVG leading to many false assumptions about cures. However, in the UK, Doctors tell parents of suffering children that cannabis will NOT cure their children of epilepsy, as demand for drug continues to soar, since the UK government had made available the drug in limited circumstances.

    It was reported there that “Paediatricians are seeing a ‘massive upsurge’ in the number of parents demanding that psychoactive cannabis medicine be prescribed for their epileptic children. Hundreds of parents are reported to have contacted doctors after the high-profile cases of epilepsy sufferers Alfie Dingley, six, and Billy Caldwell, 12, prompted Ministers to change the law on giving children the drug for medical reasons.

    Both youngsters were treated with cannabis containing the non-psychoactive compound cannabidiol (CBD), as well as small amounts of the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).” Further it was noted that “In the UK, there are 20,000 children who suffer epilepsy that doesn’t respond to conventional treatments. But leading paediatricians say they are horrified that many parents now see cannabis as a panacea for their child’s fits.”

    Not such a wonder drug after all! Just a lot of people who wish to grow more Cannabis and soon the push here would be for Cocaine and Heroin by the freewill-libertarians.

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