The island nation of Antigua and Barbuda is about to join the likes of Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, Malta and recently Bermuda to decriminalize the possession of some amount of cannabis.
The nation’s lower house of parliament passed the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill on Tuesday that decriminalizes the possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis, reports local news portal Antigua News Room.
The Senate has to pass the bill before it becomes law after it is gazetted.
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The law allows a household to have up to four plants. The prime minister, Gaston Browne, told the media that the move was as a result of the wide usage of the plant and to catch up to changing times.
“The use of marijuana is now socially acceptable. It is, in essence, a part of the culture of the country. I want to make it abundantly clear that my government is not advocating the use of cannabis; we are against anything that is smoked.
“We do accept, though, on the other hand, that marijuana utilized in different forms has significant medicinal benefits and certainly we’ll move pretty quickly to ensure that we legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes,” he said.
A poll conducted in the country before the bill was passed indicated that 70% of the population was in support of decriminalizing the possession of cannabis.
The prime minister has cautioned the police to stop incriminating marijuana users ahead of the passing of the law. He entreated them to change their attitudes towards the use of marijuana.
“I want to signal to the members of the police force, in the interim that they desist from incriminating individuals. The government has made its policy very clear. Even though the law has not been changed, at least they must respect the intent and give those who use marijuana a break,” he said on his privately-owned radio station Pointe FM.
The law is expected to also wipe the records of those who have been convicted for the use of marijuana. People below the age of 18 will not be allowed to smoke while smoking in public places will not be permitted according to the law.
The government says it will embark on a public education campaign against the abuse of marijuana.