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Anger at ‘stalled’ decriminalisation debate

Cleveland Simmons, of community group the Young Progressives (File photograph by Johnathan Bell)

Action is needed on the “stalled” debate over decriminalising drugs, which community group the Young Progressives says could defuse the Island’s gang-related tensions.

“Every time we lose someone, every time a young man is murdered, politicians come out and give their condolences,” said group member Cleveland Simmons. “It bothers me, because we put forward the idea way back with the Progressive Labour Party, when they came together with a joint committee that heard references to the decriminalisation of drugs, and yet nothing has been done about it. It’s stalled.”

Decriminalisation was one of the topics heard by a joint select committee on gang violence, called in 2010, but Mr Simmons said nothing had come of this.

Meanwhile an Opposition bill for the decriminalisation of cannabis lingered on the order of business for the House of Assembly throughout the latest session without being debated.

Mr Simmons said the lucrative trade in illegal drugs fuelled the Island’s troubles with gang violence.

“The bottom line is, I’m upset with the way that both parties have addressed our situation with violence,” he said. “They took the guns out of Somerset a couple of weeks ago when they made that bust but that made no difference.”

Mr Simmons was referring to a series of raids last month in which three firearms and ammunition were seized along with drugs and cash.

This was followed on July 21 by the murder of Job-Solomon Tucker, 23, a Sandys resident who died after he was stabbed outside a house on Woodlawn Road, Sandys.

Fellow group member Michael Markham voiced dissatisfaction with the medical cannabis legislation passed by the House of Assembly in December last year.

The act approved the use of cannabis-derived drugs such as Marinol.

“We haven’t even dealt with medical cannabis, let alone decriminalisation,” Mr Markham told The Royal Gazette.

Dissatisfied with the slow pace of the Island’s political progress, the group is called for “more accountability for the permanent secretaries”, Mr Markham said.

“The permanent secretaries are the ones who run policy,” he said.

“We propose that all permanent secretaries declare and publish their financial interests on the same register where the MPs put theirs.”