Hemp can undoubtedly be traced to several ethnic, religious, and cultural traditions relevant to Trinidad & Tobago. Prime Minister Rowley explicitly said that reforms in marijuana laws are not the priority for the government. Historically, hemp flower or cannabis plant remained illegal for both recreational and medicinal use in Trinidad and Tobago. However, recent events indicates that like the other neighboring Caribbean countries, Trinidad and Tobago is also loosening its laws on hemp/cannabis. So let us reflect some light on the legal status of cannabis and hemp flower in Trinidad and Tobago
Hemp and Trinidad and Tobago
The country’s Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi in 2019 said:
“After extensive research, broad stakeholder consultation and legislative scrutiny, the government strongly believes that it is time to amend the Dangerous Drugs Act and strictly regulate marijuana research, cultivation, supply, and marketing activities. Basically, through the establishment of a cannabis control authority.”
The manufacture, possession, and consumption of cannabis in Trinidad and Tobago was decriminalized. In December 2019, the government passed a bill in Parliament to decriminalize the cultivation and possession of small quantities of cannabis which soon became the law. However ineffective regulations and poor control mechanism are now creating new problems.
Problems Arising After Decriminalizing Marijuana.
Since the law was passed in 2019, many suppliers started selling fake/counterfeit or mixed product. Some started selling expensive while others labelled the content of their cannabis products improperly. This all shows the lack of government oversight. Little to none of the cannabis or cannabis derived products were lab tested. The facility of lab testing is rare in the country, and this creates ambiguity with regards to the quality and the THC content of the hemp.
Is the recreational use of Hemp legal?
Recreation use is still not allowed. The law explicitly states that there would be huge penalties for those who unlawfully engage with legal medical or religious marijuana programs. For example, if a person who uses medicinal cannabis without a medical prescription or uses medicinal cannabis as recreational will be fined heavily and may end up in jail for a maximum of 10 years.
Is smoking in public places legal?
Though the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Bill 2019 legalized hemp, smoking in public places is still strictly prohibited. A penalty of TT$2000 is generally imposed on a person caught smoking in public.
Is the medicinal use of Hemp legal?
Marijuana is used to treat both Cancer and Glaucoma among many other diseases. In 2018, around 2000 people lost their life to cancer in Trinidad and Tobago. Similarly, Caribbean regions have the highest percentage of Glaucoma cases in the world. The separate legalization bill of 2019 would allow for the sale, use and distribution of cannabis for medical, research and religious purposes.
Can possession of hemp land you in jail?
In 2019, the country decriminalized the possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis (1.1 oz). Thus, this relaxation would not taint the permanent criminal record of the offender. However, possession of more than 30 grams of hemp is still illegal. If caught with 30 – 60 grams, a fine of up to TT$50,000 will be imposed. Furthermore, the possession of more than 60 grams of hemp will lead to a fine of TT$75000. This fine and punishment may get severe depending upon the quantity of hemp and the past criminal record of the offender. The possession of cannabis in presence of children or in a close proximity to schools carries huge fines and up to five years in prison.
Can you grow Hemp in the country?
Limited cultivation of hemp for personal use was legalized in 2019. As per the law, you can legally grow up to a maximum of four plants per adult in your house. However, quite abruptly, the law also specifies that those plants must be male, which do not produce flower. Some say that this was an error from the side of the government officials’ due to their lack of understanding of cannabis.
For commercial bulk production, you will need to obtain a license from the Ministry of Health which will grant you the licenses to produce, manufacture, distribute, sell, import, and export products made and derived from cannabis.
Where can you find Cannabis in the country?
You can buy medicinal cannabis easily from any pharmacy as long as you have been prescribed by a licensed practitioner. Seller/suppliers have to obtain a license to sell hemp and they cannot sell it for recreational use. The government is granting licenses for medicinal, scientific, and religious purposes only.
Decriminalization of hemp in Trinidad and Tobago can help boost its economy and also reduce drug trafficking. To satisfy the local demand for cannabis, the government through Ministry of Agriculture also supplied cannabis seed. This all would allow the government to put a stop to the illegal flow of cannabis products smuggled into the country from other Caribbean countries and Latin America. Overall, this would create a new legal industry/market, benefit the hardworking farmers, and improve the overall lifestyle of the common people.