IF marijuana were to be fully legalised, as is being suggested by some, then any potential economic gain that is to be made by the small man would be crippled, said Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.
Al-Rawi said since legislation was taken to Parliament on Friday for the decriminalisation, instead of legalisation of the drug, he had faced criticism from several individuals who accused him of “not going far enough”.
One such person was marijuana activist Nazma Muller, who criticised Government’s Cannabis Control Bill, describing it as “punitive” and one that was tone-deaf to the needs of Rastafarians.
“We want full legalisation. Come again, Mr Attorney General,” Muller stated in an interview with the Express on Friday regarding her views on the bill. Muller, who has consistently protested outside Parliament in Port of Spain for marijuana legalisation, said the tabled bill failed to address crucial issues, including the use of the plant as a religious herb by members of the Rastafarian faith. But on Saturday night, during a People’s National Movement (PNM) political meeting in Diego Martin, Al-Rawi addressed the criticism, saying decriminalisation, instead of legalisation, would have a positive effect on the country’s current backlog of cases in the magistrates’ courts and would also hurt the pockets of drug dealers and gang members, some of whom would use money gained from the illegal sale of drugs to purchase firearms to further fuel the already troubling crime situation.
“If you want full legalisation now you are crippling the economic potential of people that have a chance to actually, in a regulated environment, make some progress,” Al-Rawi said.
“In taking the decriminalisation of marijuana forward, we have arranged instead for the money that gangs live on to be taken away from them,” he said.
“If you make everything a free-for-all, how are you going to come up with an enterprise,” he added.
The AG said, every year, approximately 9,000 cases for possession of marijuana go to magistrates’ courts across the country.
And 86 per cent of the time spent by officials at Forensic Science Centre is also spent analysing less than 60 grammes of marijuana for court cases, he said.
That time could be better utilised by those officials in analysing court exhibits in more serious cases such as rape and murder. Some of those cases take ten years or more to be completed.
With the decriminalisation of marijuana, Al-Rawi said, in the very near future, members of the public will begin to see matters at both the magistrates’ and High Courts being dealt with and disposed of with greater efficiency.