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Should Grenada decriminalise cannabis? | NOW Grenada

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by NOW Grenada, Curlan Campbell

  • In 2018 Prime Minister indicated willingness to further examine criminal aspect of marijuana
  • Indiscriminate use of marijuana in public spaces has become problematic
  • Majority of incarcerations in Grenada for drug-related offences are for possession of marijuana

“Nah Goa Jail, Said me Nah Goa Jail, Fe ganja no more, I’m a Nah Goa Jail” — from Peter Tosh’s track Nah Goa Jail from his 1987 debut album No Nuclear War.

The question being asked by Rastafarians who still feel victimised and stigmatised by the system over a plant that is used for sacrificial purposes, is should the Government of Grenada rethink its stance on decriminalising cannabis, since many neighbouring islands have either moved to decriminalise small portions for household use, or for use for medical research as in the case of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines?

Small scale marijuana farmer “J” is of that view and he patiently awaits government’s response to the growing pressure that will eventually arise as neighbouring Caribbean territories soften their cannabis laws given the changing attitudes and approaches to marijuana use around the world.

The identity of “J” is protected as possession of cannabis in Grenada still carries hefty fines and penalties, including autonomy given to the magistrate to impose a maximum fine of EC$250,000 for possession of marijuana and incarceration for five years or more.

At present, Jamaica, Belize, Saint Vincent and The Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda have taken steps to legalise small amounts of cannabis. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 2018, Antigua and Barbuda has gone as far as allowing each family to legally cultivate up to 4 plants for personal use, and has considered expunging the convictions for those jailed over the decades.

In Belize, legislation such as the Misuse of Drugs Act 2017 decriminalises the possession of cannabis in amounts not exceeding ten grams and provides for the imposition of monetary and non-recordable penalties for the possession of cannabis in such amounts occurring on school premises, in specified circumstances, to decriminalise the smoking of cannabis on private premises. Closer to home, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines became the first OECS member to decriminalise cannabis for medical purposes and scientific research.

In July 2019, the island also issued its first set of licences to begin producing medicinal cannabis to 8 local farmers producer cooperatives, 13 traditional cultivators of cannabis, 10 companies, and 3 non-traditional local farmers.

J cultivates the Sativa strain in his backyard from seeds he imported from places like Canada. He was eager to speak his mind regarding the slow pace at which the Grenadian authorities are moving with regards to what he describes as an important issue to be addressed.

He lamented that a significant amount of the nation’s youth are still unemployed and those who aren’t, still struggle to make ends meet. He believes that the marijuana industry will be the avenue that will take impoverished people out of poverty and will be an avenue to evade what he describes as corporate exploitation of the workforce due to low wages. “Most times you are working hand to mouth, bill to bill, you can’t even save a dollar so it is really tough out here. So you have to resort to something else illegal to make some money or to feed your family because personally, everybody wants to leave a legacy for their children.”

J said it is high time that the government puts the issue of decriminalisation before the public in the form of a referendum. “I strongly believe that our neighbours are slacking up on their marijuana laws, and we, as we say in local terms, Grenada is the monkey in the middle because eventually after everybody [start] benefiting off of it, we are going to look at it and realise we could and it will be too late. And I would really like to see some dialogue in parliament about at least thinking about decriminalising marijuana or having it for medical use.”

In Grenada, the majority of incarcerations for drug-related offences are for possession of marijuana. Drug Control Officer at the Drug Control Secretariat, Ministry of Education, Dave Alexander, said despite advances towards decriminalisation of cannabis in some Caribbean countries, for the most part, the possession of marijuana is still considered illegal in Grenada and most Caribbean nations, and this will remain as there is still no directive from the government that this matter should be given priority.

“None of these countries has opened up entirely to the legalisation of marijuana, but what they are saying is that possession of small quantities is permitted, but in excess, then you can be charged. But Grenada has not taken that position, remember Grenada is a sovereign country that determines its laws and regulations and so Grenada continues to remain that cannabis is a controlled drug.”

Alexander did say that the decriminalisation of marijuana in some countries in the region will ultimately have an adverse effect on Grenada. “It would have an effect on us in the sense that if neighbouring countries are doing it, people here would call for that, but as to the government’s position, they continue to maintain that is still a controlled drug and if and when it changes its position, well then we have to deal with that accordingly.”

The call for the government to rethink its stance on cannabis decriminalisation is also being made by Pastor Stanford Simon of the St George’s Baptist Church in his personal capacity. Showing his support to having this discussion on a national level, Pastor Simon believes the time has come to have a more objective approach to this issue, bearing in mind that once done properly Grenada stands to benefit more economically from cannabis decriminalisation, while putting an end to the disenfranchisement and incarceration of some of the country’s productive members of society.

“The USA used to send planes and helicopters to destroy Saint Vincent and Grenada’s marijuana, which used to produce some of the best marijuana in the world. I have read an article which proves that over the years they knew what they were doing and what they have done was that they have raided and taken the seeds and re-engineered them in some way and then ship it back for us to consume… The multinational corporation wanted to destroy the marijuana that we have in this part of the world now, wants to be the lord and master of it, which is just another form of slavery and colonialism.”

Pastor Simon is of the view that legalising marijuana, once properly regulated in the same manner as alcohol and tobacco, can become a profitable venture since this removes the criminal aspect of possession which can ultimately lead to the establishment of legitimate businesses.

Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Simon Dickson said the RGPF has seen the adverse effect that the race for cannabis cultivation and foreign investment in neighbouring Saint Vincent and The Grenadines is having on Grenada, especially when it comes to drug interdiction. Local law enforcement has seen an increase in seizures of cannabis from Saint Vincent with several Vincentians detained for drug trafficking. More seriously is the emergence of a more potent strain of cannabis being imported from South America that can fetch higher prices on the market.

“We have seen an increase in cannabis coming from out of South America, which is what they call Creepy. Creepy is more potent than the weed coming out of St Vincent. It is priced probably four times higher than the price of weed coming out of St Vincent, so we have seen different strains of marijuana from around the region here in Grenada,” said ASP Dickson.

In 2018, the Drug Squad of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) experienced a record-breaking year for the seizure of cannabis, confiscating over 4,178 kilograms, the majority of which came from Saint Vincent. This year so far, the drug squad has seized over 1,451 kilograms and through the raiding of dealers has confiscated over 1,208 wrapped cannabis cigarettes. This represents a sharp decline when compared to 2017 where 3,000 wrapped portions were seized.

ASP Dickson said the increase in the indiscriminate use of marijuana in public spaces in areas such as “Jamrock” in the Town of St George’s near the Market Square has become problematic. Despite the noticeable increase in the use of marijuana in public spaces which is still an arrestable offence, ASP Dickson said officers will use their discretion when dealing with such cases since the cost to send an individual to court for possession of a small quantity of marijuana is a waste of court time and resources. “When you equate the cost of taking them to court for a joint and he comes out just paying $100. All the work and effort, time and paperwork and everything that is put in to take him to court again, doesn’t make sense, but let me hasten to say it is still in law and you can still be arrested for it.”

Strict laws criminalising cannabis in Grenada is spelled out clearly in the Drug Abuse (Prevention and Control) Act.

In 2018 Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell addressed the matter by indicating his willingness to further examine the criminal aspect of marijuana. “More and more we are hearing about countries who are placing less importance on criminalising the use of marijuana and other forms of recreational drugs, but it’s an area we have to examine. Maybe in a sense while we have one smoking a joint of marijuana is considered to be a criminal offence, we may have to examine to some extent that area of activity, because we want to spend the police time in dealing with many more major problems than just having to confront one using a joint or two of marijuana outside,” he said.

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International Civil Aviation Day | United Nations

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Civil aircraft at airport terminal. Photo: Serge Davidyants

The purpose of International Civil Aviation Day is to help generate and reinforce worldwide awareness of the importance of international civil aviation to the social and economic development of States, and of the unique role of ICAO in helping States to cooperate and realize a truly global rapid transit network at the service of all mankind.

As the UN and world nations have now adopted Agenda 2030, and embarked on a new era in global sustainable development, the importance of aviation as an engine of global connectivity has never been more relevant to the Chicago Convention’s objectives to look to international flight as a fundamental enabler of global peace and prosperity.

Every five years, coinciding with ICAO anniversaries (2014/2019/2024/2029/etc.), the ICAO Council establishes a special anniversary theme for International Civil Aviation Day. Between these anniversary years, Council representatives select a single theme for the full four-year intervening period.

 

75 Years of Connecting the World

Seventy-five years after ICAO’s foundation, the International Civil Aviation network carries over four billion passengers annually.

The global Air Transport sector supports 65.5 million jobs and USD 2.7 trillion in global economic activity, with over 10 million women and men working within the industry to ensure 120,000 flights and 12 million passengers a day are carried safely to their destinations. The wider supply chain, flow-on impacts and jobs in tourism made possible by air transport show that at least 65.5 million jobs and 3.6 per cent of global economic activity are supported by the aviation industry according to research by the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG).

Learn more about ICAO 75 Years of Connecting the World.

 

 

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This Day in History | NOW Grenada

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by John Angus Martin, A-Z of Grenada Heritage

On this day, 7 December 1976, Grenada witnessed its most contentious general elections to date when opposition parties formed a coalition, the People’s Alliance (PA), to challenge the electoral monopoly of the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) of Prime Minister Gairy, but lost.

In an attempt to end the GULP’s seemingly unshakeable electoral monopoly, the three main opposition political parties–the leftist New Jewel Movement (NJM) under Maurice Bishop (nominating seven candidates), the centrist Grenada National Party under Herbert Blaize (nominating five candidates), and the pro-business United People’s Party under Winston Whyte, a former GULP senator (nominating two candidates)–formed a coalition party, the People’s Alliance, to contest the 1976 general elections. Ideological differences between the parties created some tension, as was evident with the establishment of the PA only a few days prior to the deadline for nomination. The PA brought together three politically diverse groups, with only one thing in common, a strong desire to be rid of PM Gairy and the GULP.

The failure of the NJM to remove Eric Gairy from power by mass protest in 1974 had forced its leaders to participate in parliamentary elections, even though they believed the electoral process to be “woefully deficient.” The youth vote, from which the NJM derived much support, became important, especially since 18-year-olds were eligible to vote for the first time. Though the PA had hoped that its broad-based support would be enough to defeat PM Gairy, it was confronted with a number of political obstacles. PM Gairy’s supposed abuses and corruption of the electoral process, and the passing of a number of laws like the banning of the use of public address systems by opposition parties, thwarted the opposition’s every move. The GULP government had a monopoly of the airwaves, and even controlled the choice of an opposition election symbol.

In the end, the PA won six of the 15 contested constituencies, capturing just under 49% of the popular vote. It later protested that the election was not free and fair. It was one of the most hotly contested elections in many years. Despite the PA’s loss, the GULP government was confronted with a noticeable opposition for the first time in a decade. By 1979 many believed that “the Parliament had degenerated into a theatrical act, with Gairy always the leading actor,” and the opposition, under Bishop, a reluctant supporting cast. Some have suggested that “the Grenada Parliament had become a caricature of the Westminster model and, moreover, reflected the inherent weaknesses of that model,” leading to disillusionment in the process, and ultimately resulting in the Revolution. If there were winners among the PA, it was the NJM, which won over new supporters and gained a national platform for its leftist views.

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RGPF retirees encouraged to continue serving their communities

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by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada 

  • Police retirees urged to use job knowledge and experience to serve communities
  • 20 police officers of various ranks with a combined 587 years of service, retired

The underlining message embedded in most of the addresses to the retirees of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) was to use their knowledge and experience gained on the job to continue to serve their communities.

On Wednesday, 4 December, twenty police officers of various ranks from ASP to Royal Constable with a combined 587 years of service, retired from the RGPF. The Police Welfare Association staged a farewell ceremony in their honour at the Special Services Unit (SSU) compound at Camp Saline.

These police officers entered the service at various times, dating back to 1984, and in recognition of their services each received a plaque and medal of service in recognition of their contribution to the RGPF. As customary, the retirees marched off to Auld Lang Syne under a guard of honour, and elicited tears and applause from their comrades as they gave their final salute to Acting Police Commissioner, Edvin Martin.

Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Michael François, reminded them not to allow their talents and abilities to wither away but to put them to good use in their respective communities.

“As you retire you can look back and feel part of the part you played in seeking to build a culture in the RGPF that reflect values that underpin the service that we provide in many ways. Life begins at retirement today, and by today’s standard you are young men and women with a lot to offer to your immediate communities and to the wider society. I order you to reflect on how you are going to use your wealth of experience and talent for the common good. It is always said that the only true retirement is that of the heart. I know that your hearts are not retired and they are in the right place,” ACP François said.

Chairman of the RGPF Welfare Association, Inspector Simon Douglas, outlined areas where retirees can focus their attention post-retirement to have a more meaning life: to build a strong spiritual connection with their creator, improve their social interaction, maintain a positive attitude towards retirement and maintain a healthy body through diet and exercise. He also stressed that they now have a duty to be more integrated within the fabric of their communities. “Be intentional in creating your social network. During retirement also understand that folks from the job aren’t very likely to be a part of your post-retirement life. For those of you who are solitary try to discover the engage others; join community groups with people of similar interests. Volunteer in organisations that help people, for giving others brings the greatest sense of fulfilment. Use your knowledge and experiences to guide and encourage those of us who are still on the job.”

Kerabe Belfon, a former officer of the RGPF delivered the charge. He emphasised the importance of retirees to remember that life does not end after retirement and that they are still expected to play a leadership role in their communities. “I challenge you to enter the phase with a sense of purpose so that you could remain in good health and prosper. I understand the fight. I understand what it means to finish the race. I tell you brethren when my time arrived I finished that race sprinting. As retiring [people] I say to you, finish the race sprinting; finish the race strong so that when you move into that new phase the energy that you have you [will] transform it in realising the goals that you have beyond the RGPF, beyond service to this nation.”

2019 RGPF retirees:

  1. Supt. Terrence Noel
  2. WSupt. Lynda Francis
  3. ASP Terrence Julien
  4. ASP Renwick Francis
  5. Insp 664 David Lewis
  6. Sgt 141 Denis Burke
  7. Cpl 612 Eric Bascombe
  8. Cpl 779 Reynold St. John
  9. PC 284 Carl Fletcher (deceased)
  10. PC 60 Lincoln Roberts
  11. PC 655 Roderick Williams
  12. PC 790 Thaddeus Lewis
  13. WPC 188 Agnes Mc Lawrence
  14. WPC 759 Carol Horsford
  15. PC 507 Desmond Alexander
  16. PC 566 Wilson Richards
  17. WRC Jean Chetram
  18. RC Lennard Dickson
  19. RC Herman James
  20. Betty Ann Joseph

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