What began as a cannabis decriminalization proposal in Trinidad and Tobago has turned into one that would open the Caribbean nation to cannabis business.
The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2019, which decriminalizes the possession of cannabis on the Caribbean island, and allows for limited personal cultivation, was passed by the House last week. The Senate’s subsequent amendments to the bill on Friday night, among other things, would allow the Minister of Health to grant licenses for the “import, export, sale, manufacturing, production or distribution” of products derived from cannabis. The House late last night approved the amended bill, sending it to the president’s desk.
The bill is likely to become law as is, which would represent a significant step toward a cannabis industry in Trinidad and Tobago, which is the largest economy in the Caribbean. Steps to import cannabis into the country and to begin domestic cannabis cultivation can be taken while a separate bill, the Cannabis Control Bill 2019, which would establish a Cannabis Licensing Authority to regulate the industry, awaits passage. That bill was forwarded by the House to a Joint Select Committee of Parliament, which will report to the Parliament in February 2020.
(Read Cannabis Wire’s coverage of the House vote on these bills here.)
According to the country’s Attorney General, Faris Al-Wari, the regulations required to enact these provisions of the decriminalization bill as amended by the Senate have been drafted and would be published following the signing of the bill by Trinidad and Tobago’s President Paula Mae-Weekes.
Al-Wari also said that the government plans to supply cannabis seeds to citizens via the Ministry of Agriculture. These steps, Al-Wari explained to Senators during the debating of the bill, are being taken to aim to meet local demand for cannabis after it is decriminalized and to stem the flow of unregulated cannabis products from other Caribbean islands and parts of Latin America.
According to Ansari Hosein, a researcher with the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), told Cannabis Wire the initiative would help to transition traditional domestic farmers into the legal and regulated market while allowing for research to commence.
“Research, when legally allowed, will enable us to improve on farming practices for the commodity and also improve the lines or strains out there through stabilization and breeding programs,” Hosein said, adding that research “will help to improve production and productivity.”
The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2019 is now the desk of Trinidad and Tobago’s president Paula-Mae Weekes to be signed into law.
Editor’s note: this piece has been updated to reflect the passage of the bill in the House late last night.