Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said his government is expected to bring to parliament for consideration, legislation to decriminalize the possession of marijuana.
He made the announcement while delivering the 2019/2020 National Budget at the First Meeting of the Fifth Session of the Ninth Parliament on Tuesday.
“The Government should bring to the Parliament for consideration, legislation to decriminalize the possession of marijuana,” he said. “The Government will therefore propose that the possession of not more than 28.35 grams (1 ounce) of marijuana, be decriminalised.”
He continued, “I indicated last year, that after engaging stakeholders, consideration would be given to the possible decriminalisation of marijuana.”
According to Skerrit, he has had the opportunity to hear the views of members of the public, many of whom have been engaged in expressing their views on this issue in the media and recognize the sensitivities on this issue.
“We are of the view, however, that in all the circumstances, particularly having regard to the empirical data, and the growing international importance of medical marijuana and the world trend of decriminalization of marijuana for medical, religious and recreational use,” he stated.
He added, “We 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.”
Skerrit went on to say that the government do not believe that it is fair, that an individual should be punished eternally for such an offence.
“This measure will impact in a positive way, many of our citizens. The Government will continue to explore the medicinal benefits that can be derived from the use of marijuana, including its economic value,” he noted.
The issue of marijuana legalization has been heavily discussed in Dominica over the years.
In December 2016, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said the government would seriously consider medical marijuana in 2017 with a ‘structured’ and ‘informed dialogue.’
In July 2016, Parliamentary Representative for the Roseau Central Constituency, Joseph Isaac stated that it was time for officials to seriously consider the decriminalization of marijuana, and expressed his willingness to “lead the mission” towards this objective.
In 2014, Skerrit revealed plans to review and perhaps alter Dominica’s marijuana laws, with the view to lifting some restrictions.
In 2012, Attorney General, Levi Peter, made it clear that the drug would not soon be legalized, stating that, “Marijuana will continue to be an illegal substance in Dominica in the foreseeable future.”
Attorneys Henry Shillingford and Tiyani Behanzin have also called for legalizing marijuana in Dominica.
As recently as last year, the United Workers Party (UWP) Leader, Lennox Linton called for “a National Consultation of all stakeholders and civil society organizations before the 2018/2019 National Budget, to discuss and agree what needs to be done urgently to secure Dominica’s place in the global hemp [marijuana] industry.”
Marijuana has been classified as a ‘Class B’ drug in Dominica meaning that it is illegal to possess, cultivate, or sell the substance.