Member of Parliament for the St. George North-east constituency, Tobias Clement has added his voice to those calling for the decriminalisation of cannabis/marijuana in the country.
Clement issued the call while making his contribution to the 2017 Budget debate at the Grenada Trade Centre in Grand Anse, St. George.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and local Attorney-at-Law Anselm Clouden have often advocated for the decriminalization of marijuana and to concentrate on its medicinal values.
Pointing to significant economic benefits that have been realised from the cultivation of cannabis in the U.S State of Colorado and other countries such as Canada and England, the Member of Parliament told the Lower House that the cultivation of marijuana could significantly boost Grenada’s agriculture sector and the economy.
“I believe Mr. Speaker, if we want to see agriculture take off again in this country, give a man an acre, and maybe tell him (to) do (cultivate) half in tomatoes and half in Cannabis and we will) control it,” he suggested pointing out that Cannabis production is the “biggest agricultural product in Israel today.”
To support his call, Clement informed the House that in 2014, the State of Colorado, collected “US$300 million income from the sale of drugs produced by Cannabis,” noting “last year (2015) it was (they collected) US$1.2 billion.”
He also pointed to recent developments to decriminalise cannabis in the State of Texas and neighbouring St. Vincent and Jamaica.
Additionally, the Government MP spoke of a research agreement signed “in July of this year between the University of the West Indies and the University of Buffalo (with) a pharmaceutical company to do research in the science of Cannabis.”
He also pointed out to the house that “those who gave us our Constitution, good old England (the British government) have (authorised) Oxford University (to cultivate) in the middle of England 40 acres of Cannabis… hidden away in the bushes and it is for research purposes”.
“What are we doing here in Grenada?” he questioned and emphasised that “at the end of the day, all those (countries) who told us that we should make it (cannabis) a schedule one or schedule two drug they would leave us behind.”
The decriminalisation of marijuana is not a topic that is favoured by most regional governments.
Clement recalled making the suggestion to Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to decriminalize marijuana but it was quickly shot down with the response – “Not on my watch.”
According to the MP, although he is advocating for the drug not to be looked at in the illegal sense, he has “never smoked the thing (cannabis)” and does “not intend to.”
However, he said, “If prescribed I would want to be free (to smoke the herb) and I believe our people want to be free (to smoke) if prescribed”.
“Mr. Speaker there is science and genuine science to it (decriminalising marijuana). I am making a call for this government and all governments in the Caribbean to seriously rethink their position because if England, Canada and America have gone that way let us put policies in place as to make good economic activity from it and I think that is common sense governance…I believe it is sensible,” Clement told the House.
Under local laws, the courts are allowed to impose stiff fines and prison sentences on persons caught in the ganja trade.