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Weeks to consider cannabis legislation

Taking care: Michael Weeks running awareness campaign (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Any move to legalise cannabis must be examined with care, the Minister of Social Development and Sport has said.

Michael Weeks said “great pains” must be taken as the island looks at the use of cannabis.

Mr Weeks told The Royal Gazette: “If we are to go legal, it’s going to take a lot of study, research and dialogue,”

The social development ministry has launched a public awareness campaign in the wake of the Misuse of Drugs (Decriminalisation of Cannabis) Amendment Act, which passed in December.

The Act removed criminal offences for simple possession of seven grams or less of cannabis.

Mr Weeks said that “a lot of the average men you bump into” now believed the drug was legal.

He added: “It’s still illegal to smoke cannabis, in any amount.”

A green paper now being prepared by the National Drug Commission will include a study of the misuse of marijuana.

Mr Weeks told the House of Assembly that the awareness campaign running this month “will likely be extended through April and May”.

He said that cannabis remained a controlled drug, and it is not legal to “consume, cultivate, traffic or import” any quantity.

Police officers still have legal authority to seize cannabis of any amount from a member of the public.

Mr Weeks said the law change was designed “to prevent our young people, in particular young black men, from being placed on the proverbial stop list, and having their lives completely altered by virtue of not being able to travel to the United States”.

The Act does not guarantee that anyone attempting to travel to the United States will not be stopped, including if they hold a prior conviction for possession of cannabis.

Mr Weeks was questioned on whether he had held talks with the United States Consulate on the problem.

He said he had not yet spoken with the American Consul-General to discuss the “stop list”.