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Caribbean, West African Nations to Study Decrim

At the semi-annual summit of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), held July 1-4 in Antigua, regional leaders agreed to establish a commission to review marijuana policy and assess the need for reforms. The communiqué issued at the conclusion of the meeting stated: “Heads of Government agreed to establish a Regional Commission on Marijuana to conduct a rigorous enquiry into the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding marijuana use in the Region and to advise whether there should be a change in the current drug classification of marijuana, thereby making the drug more accessible to a range of users.”

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who pushed to get the issue on the agenda as chair of CARICOM, said: “It seems to me counterproductive to ignore the potential of an industry in respect of medical marijuana and to continue to expend police, national security, court resources on persons who consume a minuscule amount of marijuana in the privacy of their homes.”

West African nations may be headed in the same direction, following the publication last month of a report by the West Africa Commission on Drugs. The report, commissioned by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, states: “We believe that the consumption and possession for personal use of drugs should not be criminalized. Experience shows that criminalization of drug use worsens health and social problems, puts huge pressures on the criminal justice system and incites corruption.”

The commission found that while West Africa is becoming a transit point for Europe-bound cocaine and other hard drugs, the most popular recreational drug used within the region remains cannabis. The commission warned against replicating hardline strategies in the region: “We caution that West Africa must not become a new front line in the failed ‘war on drugs,’ which has neither reduced drug consumption nor put traffickers out of business.”

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