The Trinidad and Tobago House of Representatives has passed a bill that will legalize and create regulation for medical cannabis commercialization.
The Cannabis Control Bill 2020 came to pass on April 29th following House approval of the joint select committee’s report on the bill.
The new law follows the decriminalization of cannabis in 2019, permitting the cultivation of up to four plants and possessing 30g of flower. Two and a half years on from this, Trinidad and Tobago legislators have taken the next step forward to developing a legal, domestic medical cannabis industry.
This will see the establishment of the Trinidad and Tobago Cannabis Licensing Authority, as the bill looks to “provide for the regulatory control of the handling of cannabis for certain purposes”.
Amongst other activities, the Cannabis Licensing Authority is set award licenses for the cultivation, distribution, sale and cannabis research.
Economic Potential of Legal Cannabis in Trinidad and Tobago
Minister of Local Government and Rural Affairs, Faris Al-Rawi, is patently aware of the cannabis industry’s economic potential, as he highlighted that “people have the opportunity to make some serious money in a serious industry”.
Moreover, entrepreneurs who set up shop in the legal Trinidad and Tobago cannabis industry will not face some of the issues experienced by plant touching businesses in US, as it is thought that business owners will be bankable.
The prospect of seemingly frictionless access to financial services could well be a nod to foreign businesses looking to expand their operations overseas; attracting inflows of investment into Trinidad and Tobago would provide a real boost to the domestic economy.
“The opportunities in rural areas from an economic standpoint will be tremendous” continued Al-Rawi.
Opposition to the Cannabis Control Bill
Whilst passing the Cannabis Control Bill signifies a landmark moment for legislators in Trinidad and Tobago, there are those who believe the bill needs further clarification on certain matters, nor goes far enough on others.
Prominent cannabis activist, Marcus Ramkissoon, has identified up to 20 possible amendments that would be necessary to make the bill fit for purpose. Amongst these, Ramkissoon highlights legislative shortfalls, such as the lack of separation between prescribable medical cannabis (products such as tinctures, capsules and oils) and non-prescribable products (like flower and raw extract).
Additionally, issues around where products will be dispensed, provisions for seed-to-sale tracking and social equity should be re-addressed, according to Ramkissoon.
It had previously been hoped that the Trinidad and Tobago Cannabis Control Bill would ensure citizens would maintain substantial control of the domestic industry, mirroring laws in Jamaica stating that companies must have a minimum of 50% ownership by Jamaicans.
However, the recently passed legislation in Trinidad and Tobago fall short on this, something Ramkissoon would like to see addressed, remarking that a “more inclusive social equity programme has to be established in the primary legislation”.
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