File photo: Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, May 9, 2019 (Press Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister) – The Team Unity Government today, Thursday, May 9, introduced several landmark pieces of bills before the National Assembly, among them being the Cannabis Bill, 2019, which will in essence provide the legal framework relating to the cultivation and use of marijuana in St. Kitts and Nevis.
The Cannabis Bill, 2019, provides for the regulation and control of cannabis for religious use, by documented members of registered religious organizations, to uphold the constitutional rights afforded to each citizen of Saint Christopher and Nevis, to establish the Saint Christopher and Nevis Medicinal Cannabis Authority whose functions will be described herein, to authorize medicinal and alternative health practitioners to recommend medicinal cannabis, to establish scientific research protocol for medicinal cannabis, and to establish a licensing structure and complete tracking system for medicinal cannabis businesses.
This decision by the Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris-led administration was arrived at following an exhaustive, meticulous and comprehensive research and consultative process led by the St. Kitts & Nevis (National) Marijuana Commission over a 16-month period.
During the February 20, 2019, Sitting of the National Assembly, Prime Minister Harris announced to the nation that his Cabinet had unanimously accepted thirteen of the committee’s recommendations which included, inter alia, an amendment to the Drugs Act, having regard to scientific developments since the Act was passed in 1986, as well as the use of cannabis and its derivatives for medicinal and scientific purposes permitted under license and a strict legislated regime.
“I would be among those who say that this is a reformist and enlightened piece of legislation that appropriately responds to the popular will of our population, and in some ways the Bill, which we are bringing approximate similar international developments have gone before us in terms of legislation in the USA, in Canada and in Europe,” Prime Minister Harris said during Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly under the agenda item Statements by Ministers.
The honourable prime minister indicated that this historic piece of legislation will place St. Kitts and Nevis among the most advanced and forward-looking countries in the world.
He added, “While countries before us, for example Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, have passed their version of the Cannabis Bills, our bill, when it goes through Committee Stage, will grant legislative approval for and regulate the use of cannabis for medicinal, for religious and recreational purposes. In other words, we have cut across the three broad gamut that had been the subject of discussion regionally and elsewhere with respect to the issues to do with marijuana.”
Moreover, Prime Minister Harris noted that the necessary steps will be taken to ensure that this Bill also protects our youths, tightens the regulatory system and modernises and strengthens penalties for criminal offences.
“While we are happy to present a Bill that mirrors the revised national viewpoint on marijuana use, we should be clear that the law is still on the books and before the law is changed persons are expected to comply with the legislation. We want therefore to warn persons who would seek to illegally exploit the relaxation of marijuana law that have been proposed and to warn them that the extant laws remain until they are otherwise amended or repealed,” Dr. Harris said.
As part of its recommendations to the Cabinet, the Marijuana Commission called the creation of a massive public messaging programme prior to any changes in the law and continuing thereafter informing the public of the benefits and risks and the potential harm to young persons regarding the use of cannabis.