Residents who support the use of cannabis have called on the Government of Antigua & Barbuda to refocus the ongoing consultations from the proposed decriminalisation to legalisation.
During the first of a series of consultations on Monday night, High Priest Conneal “Bongo Selah” Christian of The Nyahbinghi Theocracy Church called on Prime Minister Gaston Browne to set the trail ablaze by propelling the twin island to become the first in the region to legalise the controversial drug.
“We are asking the prime minister to assert your sovereignty, as a sovereign nation within the international community. Yes, you are the leader of the people and you can take counsel but you have to act on what is right in your mind.”
A committee established to compile the submissions of users, doctors, religious groups and other members of society and present it to Parliament, held the first of the public consultations at the Villa Primary School.
Social Transformation Minister Samantha Marshall outlined that the government intends to decriminalise five grams of marijuana, a proposal that the Prime Minister Browne, who attended the consultation, has also publicly committed to carry out by year-end.
The majority of those in attendance are suggesting that the government should look to capatilize on the sale of products made from cannabis and to introduce “marijuana tourism” to generate revenue.
“Grow the marijuana; it’s a billion-dollar industry,” the high priest said. “Just the other day Colorado’s tax alone — me nah talk about the sale of the herb — the tax alone is Antigua’s budget.”
Although the recreational use of marijuana was not listed in the government’s proposal, various members in the audience mentioned US locations, like Washington and California, where smoking and small possession of the substance is legal.
Internationally, the drug is legal in the South American country of Uruguay and European nations such as the Netherlands and Spain have marijuana widely available since they have already decriminalised it.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)