Dr Irving Pascal
Dr Irving Pascal

Dr. Irving Pascal has described government's recent decision to decriminalise "one ounce" of marijuana as a "catch a vote" policy.

"The recent pronouncement in the parliament to decriminalize the possession of only an ounce of Cannabis in a vacuum reflects this administration's trademark lazy, incompetent, reckless and irresponsible vote catching approach to national development," Dr. Pascal said. "In this case 'Smoke an ounce and vote for Mr. Skerrit'. Promoting only an ounce of Cannabis as legal is indeed the promotion of its recreational use by smoking."

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told parliament two weeks ago that his government is proposing "that the possession of not more than 28.35 grams (1 ounce) of marijuana, be decriminalised."

During the delivery of the budget address for the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said the amended legislation will "go further and make the necessary amendments to have struck off from the record of those convicted for marijuana possession, any conviction in respect of the possession of 28.35 grams (one ounce) or less".

Dominica will join a growing number of Caribbean countries to decriminalise marijuana. The use of small amounts of ganja has been decimalized in Antigua, Bermuda, St. Kitts & Nevis and Jamaica. In 2015 Jamaica became the first country in CARICOM to decriminalised ganja when its parliament decriminalised up to two ounces of the drug and allowed households to grow up to five trees for its use. In July 2019 the republic of Trinidad and Tobago was still talking about the issue.

But Dr. Pascal said the policy on marijuana must go much further otherwise it is reckless. "Dominica needs an in- depth, comprehensive policy that incorporates the commercial, medicinal, psycho-spiritual and recreational aspects of the Cannabis plant. Such a policy must have strict regulations to protect at risks groups and inhibit associated criminality," Dr. Pascal said.

"In the absence of wider public education and factual information on Cannabis liberalisation this "smoke a spliff and vote for me" policy could do more harm than good. For instance what will be the source of the Ounce? Will the producers be local? Will it be legal for them to grow the plant? Who will verify the Ounce's suitability for human consumption? And what if one has an Ounce and a half? Will smoking the OUNCE be allowed in public?

"This latest 'catch a vote' policy will not only perpetuate the demonization of the plant; it will most likely increase the risks to the vulnerable especially our youth.

"The intended deception here is so obvious that it can only fool a few. I hasten to add and caution that SMOKING is bad for our health and recent research confirms that the developing brain is to be protected from exposure to the RECREATIONAL use of Cannabis".