By Herbert Volney
In Defence of Marijuana
I am an advocate for the decriminalization of the cultivation, possession and use of marijuana. As a former long-standing High Court judge it was my experience that successive juries failed in clear cut prosecutions to convict prisoners. I understood it to mean that the jury had deep rooted reservations on the very foundation of the basis for marijuana's illegal status.
Herbert Volney grew up in Fort Lane, Roseau, was schooled at St Mary's Academy, is a graduate of the UWI and the Hugh Wooding Law School. He is a jurist and retired High Court judge in Trinidad and Tobago, a former elected Member of Parliament (St Joseph) and former Cabinet Minister of Justice in Trinidad and Tobago.
Why must we spoil the character of young men by convicting them of possession of small quantities of marijuana for personal use? Why must we by our indifference to the topic countenance the documented misconduct of law enforcement of planting small quantities on citizens to embarrass them or settle old scores? Why must we fill our jails with young men for possession of marijuana thereby overcrowding them and leaving little room for the thieves, robbers and sexual predators who should be locked up? Why must we overload our summary criminal justice system with these cases thereby slowing down the hearing and determination of serious crimes that affect our societies?
Why, why, why? I can go on. Why must we spend millions to go out in the bush and cut down plantations while law enforcement is absent in crime spots when needed to maintain law and order?
Why then can't we regularize cultivation by quotas and registration? If smokers were allowed to grow marijuana in their backyards there would be a much smaller demand for trading thereby driving the price down and removing the high profit margin in cultivation for trafficking ? If we impose excise duties upon regulated use in legal smoke shops just like rum shops, government would get revenue from it.
Tourists will come to the Caribbean and go to smoke shops to "badden" their heads and want to return. They would pay to sample the different strains, and their blends in a home grown product requiring no foreign exchange. Surely it has happened in Amsterdam in Holland, and so why not in designated areas.
The possibilities are endless. Besides, there is already an underground economy so large that one can understand what pays for the apparent opulent lifestyles in our so called poor countries. So why not decriminalize it just as we decriminalized 'whe whe' and made it 'play whe' in Trinidad and Tobago thereby making it a major source of inland revenue. Many states in the American Union have reclassified marijuana just as they did when bootlegging made the prohibition of alcohol otiose.
I have laboured on the subject and even today seen that support for decriminalization in Trinidad and Tobago has gotten the open support of Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
I travelled to the Commonwealth of Dominica and addressed the Employers Federation, using the forum to espouse the merits of bringing the debate forward given the concerns expressed to me by the Police Chief and Superintendent of Prisons. These are important issues to be addressed throughout the Caribbean where limited resources can no longer be directed at law enforcement of this imperial imposition in the age of independence.
Let's get real about marijuana in the Caribbean.