House debates JSC report on cannabis bill Wednesday

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Marijuana plants. –

THE House of Representatives will sit on Wednesday at 1.30 pm to debate a motion to approve a joint select committee report on the Cannabis Control Bill 2020.

The motion is filed in the name of San Fernando West MP, Rural Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi. The bill was read by Al-Rawi in the House for the first time on October 14, 2020. He was attorney general at the time. On March 16, Al-Rawi was reassigned to the Rural Development and Local Government Ministry in a Cabinet reshuffle. He was replaced by attorney Reginald Armour SC on the same day. Armour was also appointed a government senator.

The bill’s objectives include the regulatory control of the handling of cannabis for certain purposes, the establishment of the Trinidad and Tobago Cannabis Licensing Authority.

Section 29 of the bill proposes that the authority can issue licences for the medicinal, therapeutic or scientific use of cannabis. Under Section 30 of the bill, people who are 18 years or older, are citizens of TT, permanent residents of TT, a citizen of a Caricom state, a company, firm of cooperative society can apply for licences under the legislation.

People convicted of indictable offences under the Dangerous Drugs Act or Proceeds of Crime Act are ineligible for a licence.

On November 22, 2019 Government told Parliament it planned to introduce legislation to decriminalise the use of marijuana for medicinal and other purposes. Al-Rawi said in a statement the Dangerous Drugs Act would be amended and a Cannabis Control Authority Bill introduced. He outlined most of the measures including allowing people to have up to 30 grammes of marijuana in their possession. There will be a fixed penalty for those in possession of 30-60 grammes.

In December 2019, amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act made it legal for people to have no more than 30 grammes of marijuana, but anyone caught with more than 100 grammes can be charged with trafficking and could be fined up to $3 million if convicted.

There are no sittings of the Senate or JSC meetings scheduled for this week.

The Public Administration and Appropriations Committee is expected to meet virtually on April 27 to discuss the blackout in Trinidad on February 16.

On April 5, the Prime Minister received the independent report on the incident from the cabinet-appointed expert committee at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s. The committee was chaired by retired UWI professor of electrical engineering Chandrabhan Sharma. Other members were former T&TEC chairman and structural engineer Keith Sirju and acting Supt Allister Guevarro.

The team’s remit was to thoroughly investigate and determine the causes of, and national response to, the blackout and to make recommendations to prevent a recurrence of such an event.

On April 7, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales said Dr Rowley gave him a copy of the report on April 5 and asked him to “urgently read it.”

Gonzales said the report has a lot of information and he only finished reading it on Thursday morning, but could not reveal details. He did note that he was not surprised by the committee’s findings and promised it would be useful in future activities.