Al-Rawi on cannabis control: Give country a fair chance

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

San Fernando West MP Faris Al-Rawi –

Former attorney general and San Fernando West MP Faris Al-Rawi has asked for TT to follow the example of other countries and begin to legally manage the cultivation and exploitation of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Speaking on a motion to adopt the report of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on the Cannabis Control Bill 2020 in the Lower House on Wednesday, Al-Rawi, who chaired the committee, outlined the possible benefits of controlling the production of marijuana.

Referring to former independent senator Corinne Baptiste-McKnight, who died of cancer in 2014, Al-Rawi said a meeting with her during the last days of her treatment opened his eyes to the possible benefits of medicinal marijuana. But he maintained that balance and regulation were a priority.

“I recall vividly the experience of that dearly beloved Senator then, Corinne Baptiste-McKnight, as she wrestled with cancer, and as I visited her at Vitas House, as she told me openly, pursuant to medical prescription, that the only thing that eased her pain was a smoke of marijuana.

“It dawned upon my mind, as a non-user of marijuana, a non-user of cannabis, that the relief factors brought about by this have very immediate concerns.

“But equally so, we have tales of people who have committed suicide under drug use, who have lost their lives to uncontrolled and unsupervised cannabis, and finding the balance here requires us, as this law has proposed, to find dose limitations, caregiver limitations, strict rules for medical practitioners.

“Today we are saying to the nation, let us do what the rest of the world has, let us carefully manage the lawful exploitation of cannabis, cultivation, production etc, under licence.”

Citing data compiled by the Judiciary, Al-Rawi added that another benefit of marijuana decriminalisation was a significant drop in the number of drug cases being brought before magistrates’ courts.

He said the attention of the courts could be diverted to more pressing issues.

“In a document I obtained from them in February 2022…there has been a 78 per cent drop in the average number of drug-related matters filed annually at the magistracy, from 6,600-odd to 1,400 odd– a drop in a monthly total of 551 matters to 114 matters.

“What does that mean in the context of the report before us?

“It shows that with the courage to adopt reform as it relates to the decriminalisation of marijuana, we have been able to divert the courts’ attention away from marijuana-related matters, we have dropped the statistical information by 76 per cent on average, and therefore (fewer) people are now before the courts in the jeopardy of losing their lives and reputations.”

Al-Rawi added that he was satisfied that the committee’s report thoroughly reviewed the different considerations for the introduction of cannabis control at different levels in society.