Legislative process for cannabis industry advances
Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Despite concerns being expressed by pockets of industry stakeholders, progress continues to be made towards establishing a cannabis industry in Saint Lucia. This news comes as Government is inundated with requests for updates as to when Saint Lucia will join other regional territories in establishing cannabis legal/regulatory reform and establish a cannabis industry.

The Cannabis Commission, which was chaired by Michael Gordon QC, was decommissioned after its functions ended with the submission of the report. Subsequently, a new Committee was appointed to draft the Policy and Legislative and Regulatory Framework, a left-over task from the Cannabis Commission.

The Saint Lucia Cannabis Commission was established by the Government of Saint Lucia in 2019 to review and make recommendations on the laws and regulations as it relates to cannabis/marijuana. The mandate of the Commission was to explore the following broad areas:

To conduct rigorous enquiry into the social, health and legal issues surrounding cannabis in Saint Lucia.

To engage government organizations, youth and experts in relevant fields with expertise in production, distribution and sales and seek their views on issues fundamental to a legislative and regulatory system for restricted access to cannabis.

To provide opportunities for all Saint Lucians to offer their views on key questions related to cannabis.

Recommend changes to the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act to create a regulated environment that minimizes harms and maximizes benefits associated.

Over the course of its tenure, members of the Cannabis Commission held several town hall meetings during which members of the public were apprised about plans for setting up a cannabis industry in Saint Lucia. Feedback was also received from those town hall meetings and other sources so as to craft a policy document.

The Cannabis Report was submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers prior to it being deliberated on June 15, 2020, and further consultations were required before a decision could be made. The Cabinet of Ministers made a ruling thereafter to draft policy and legislative and regulatory framework to guide the industry, which is currently being done. Further consultations are currently being held with technocrats to assist in the legislative drafting and is expected to end shortly. 

Following the drafting of the framework, a national consultation will be held to gather the views of all stakeholders on the framework via virtual and in-person means at the Financial Administration Centre at Pointe Seraphine. 

The framework will thereafter be forwarded to Cabinet for approval and, once approved, will be forwarded to Legislative Drafting Unit for drafting of the Bill tentatively for December 2020 or early 2021. However, should the drafting Unit be able to complete the draft by December 2020, it would be tabled before Parliament shortly after.

For now, however, a policy has been submitted to Minister for Commerce and Investment, Bradly Felix, and the Cabinet of Ministers has approved the drafting of policy to guide the industry and the drafting of legislative and regulatory framework to allow religious, personal, medical use, scientific research, and to establish a licensing structure to regulate the industry.

Back in July this year, Felix told the media that the Cabinet of Ministers had endorsed the recommendation to explore the expunging of the criminal records of persons charged with unlawful possession of cannabis under 30 grams.

Over the past few months, several stakeholders, including members from the Rastafarian community, have expressed frustration at the process being delayed. Despite these delays, however, the Government of Saint Lucia expects the Bill to simultaneously address human rights, personal, religious and scientific use, as well as public health while establishing a sustainable framework for the cannabis industry.