April 20th is celebrated annually by marijuana advocates who preach the benefits of cannabis — and in the Caribbean, it is the ideal day to ramp up the campaign for decriminalization.
While the 15 heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have set up a commission to address the medical use of marijuana, and the decriminalization of small quantities for recreational use, critics say the commission is dragging its feet.
Caribbean cannabis advocate Andrew Decaires believes is time for action, whch can start with educating the masses on the benefits of the herb.
“We have a lot of ignorant people," Decaires told teleSUR. "They are highly qualified, have gone to university and they’re using biased opinions, propaganda and misinformation to come up with their opinions. The science is clear. This is a relatively safe substance as compared to tobacco and alcohol. We are promoting those two substances and people who are using them are not considered criminals."
CARICOM leaders have said that that the decriminalization of marijuana must be viewed from a public health perspective.
Researcher and marijuana advocate Dr. Marcus Day, director of the Caribbean Drug and Alcohol Research Institute, said it is also an issue of economics.
“About 30,000 regular cannabis smokers in Saint Lucia, which would contribute about XCD$150,000 a day if every cannabis smoker smoked a joint (a ‘5-bag’). Incredible amount of money. So what are the economic benefits? What are the economic downsides of an eradication exercise, where they pull out 6,000 plants?”
Marijuana advocates point to Jamaica’s "enlightened" approach as a model. There, a new law makes possession of 2 ounces (56g) or less of cannabis an offense that will not result in a criminal record. Cultivation of five or fewer plants on any premises is permitted and Rastafarians, who use marijuana as a sacrament, can also use it for religious purposes for the first time since the spiritual movement was founded in Jamaica in the 1930s.
According to advocates of reform, it is time for the rest of the Caribbean to catch up.