Stuart Young. File photo/Jeff Mayers
Acting National Security Minister and Port of Spain North/ St Anns West MP Stuart Young is urging caution as debate on proposed legislation for the commercialisation of marijuana is underway.
He was speaking in the House of Representatives on a motion to adopt a report of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on the Cannabis Control Bill 2020 on Wednesday.
Referring to his own experiences, Young admitted he was hesitant to support the decriminalisation of marijuana in the past but eventually saw the benefit of easing the strain on the criminal justice system, noting the large volume of cases before the magistrate’s courts each year for marijuana possession.
He said even with that possible benefit to society, marijuana was still considered an addictive substance and called on the public to be cautious.
“I want to start by placing on record my concerns and my caution to TT and to the people because, ultimately, cannabis, marijuana, weed, ganja whatever we want to call it, it is still recognised as an addictive drug and I think it is important that that be placed on the record.
“It is certainly my view that addictions are always to be approached very cautiously and very carefully.
“I was a little hesitant to support this venture, but then I saw the merit in the decriminalisation of the personal use of cannabis and the acceptance of personal use.
“It was certainly counterproductive to incarcerate multitudes of individuals for personal use of marijuana. That was the first big point for me, having witnessed in the magistrates courts, as the former minister of national security, going into the prison yards and seeing how many of our young people, and sometimes not so young people, were incarcerated for small amounts of cannabis.”
Young also said it was noteworthy that unlike previous JSCs the government received full support from members of the Opposition who participated in the meetings, but said suggestions from Mayaro MP Rushton Paray that TT was lagging behind the rest of the Caribbean in capitalising on cannabis were exaggerated.
He said TT’s cautious approach to decriminalising marijuana for personal use, and opening up a regulated marijuana industry was necessary given the progress made over a relatively short period of time.
Young also responded to concerns that if regulated, local producers would be squeezed out of the market by large or foreign companies, noting that a major part of regulation would be to ensure small and micro enterprise continued to thrive.
“I certainly am of the view the local content has to be more than 30 per cent. It is going to be the main basis of my submission that this regularisation and regulation of the industry we are looking to open up has to benefit the people of TT.
“It has to benefit all of the people who are interested from all 41 constituencies and who vex for me saying that loss. That is the position of this government I am certain.
“I want to throw out the red herrings that this is going to be some sort of cloistered boys’ club – an elitist industry. I wont support anything of that nature.”