Dominica’s Parliament Passes Cannabis Decriminalization Bill

This week, the government approved a bill to remove penalties for possession of up to 28 grams of cannabis, while looking to create revenue from …

Lawmakers in Dominica, a mountainous Caribbean island nation located between Guadeloupe and Martinique, have passed a bill to decriminalize cannabis.

On Monday, the Parliament of Dominica passed the Amendment of the Drugs Prevention of Misuse Act of 2020, decriminalizing the possession of 28 grams, or one ounce, of cannabis for adults 18 and older. Existing cannabis-related convictions will be expunged from records, and residents will be allowed to cultivate up to three plants at home, but penalties will remain if someone is in possession of more than one ounce of cannabis.

The Caribbean has been a hotspot of cannabis law reform in the recent past, with pushes to decriminalize or legalize unfolding in, for example, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (Read Cannabis Wire’songoing coverage of the region.)

“There is a different view today than yesterday for persons who actually possess small quantities of marijuana for personal, religious use and we are therefore, Mr. Speaker, taking a further approach towards decriminalising small quantities of marijuana and to expunge the record of persons in respect of possession of 28 grams,” Minister of National Security and Home Affairs Rayburn Blackmoore said as he introduced the legislation.

Dominica also appears to be on a path toward regulating cannabis for adult use, as Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said over the summer that the nation’s government will “will forge ahead on the matter of developing a revenue stream, and foreign exchange earnings from a marijuana industry,” adding “I will report further on this aspect of the policy in due course.”

“This is all part of a justice reform program,” Skerrit said during his weekly television show this week, and indicated that, for now, the rules are just for decriminalization, not full legalization.

“This has not been presented to Parliament to ‘free up the herb,’ as we say. It is really about not prosecuting people for the possession of 28 grams or less. This is a progressive move by the government. And the next step is to look at marijuana from a medicinal standpoint and the bigger legislative agenda on this will come later down,” he added.

The move to decriminalize maps against campaign promises made from Skeritt’s party, the Dominica Labour Party (DLP), during last year’s election cycle.

“We made a commitment in our manifesto and also in the budget address of 2020 and we are going to Parliament to amend the legislation,” Skerrit said during his show.