Americas

Caribbean leaders form marijuana commission

From (L to R) Outgoing Caricom chair and Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne; incoming Chair Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie and Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart speak to the media in Nassau, Bahamas, Friday, Feb. 27, 2015 at the end of a two-day summit.
From (L to R) Outgoing Caricom chair and Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne; incoming Chair Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie and Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart speak to the media in Nassau, Bahamas, Friday, Feb. 27, 2015 at the end of a two-day summit. Courtesy of Caricom

Just days after Jamaica became the first Caribbean nation to decriminalize small portions of pot, leaders of the Caribbean Community agreed on the composition of a commission to examine marijuana legalization throughout their 15-member regional bloc.

Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie, currently chairman of the group, said members expect the commission to “soon begin its work to look into the economic, health and legal issues surrounding the use of marijuana and to consult with stakeholders to get a view on the issue.”

The marijuana legalization debate has been on the Caribbean’s agenda for more than a year. On Tuesday, Jamaica’s Parliament agreed to decriminalize small amounts of weed and establish a licensing agency to regulate a lawful medicinal marijuana industry. Also residents can carry up to two ounces of marijuana without it being on their criminal record, and grow up to five plants where permitted.

Marijuana legalization was, however, among several issues discussed during the gathering, which kicked off Thursday in Nassau. Other issues topping the packed agenda included: regional security, the economy and rising tensions between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Haiti is a member of the bloc, known as Caricom, while the Dominican Republic has applied to join.

Caribbean leaders have been vocal critics of a 2013 ruling by the Dominican Constitutional Court revoking citizenship of anyone born to immigrants without proper documentation dating back to 1929.

On Friday as the Dominican Republic marked its 171st anniversary of independence from neighboring Haiti, President Danilo Medina made it clear in a speech that his government had no intention of reversing the court’s decision. He also made it clear that come June, anyone lacking legal status, would be deported.

“Let me make it clear, too, that no nation in the world, nor any international body can require the Dominican Republic in matters of its actions on immigration, or any other sovereign right, to assume sacrifices outside of what its constitution and laws provide,” Medina said.

One issue of dire concerns for leaders heading into the summit was the threat being posed to their financial services industry. As a result, they agreed to establish a committee of finance ministers to work with the Caribbean Association of Banks to develop a plan to deal with the region being “unjustly labeled” as a high-risk area for financial services.

Leaders also agreed to create legislation to advance creative industries and set up sustainable financing for the sector.

“We are now recognizing that some other countries have made a success by exploiting the indigenous talent of their people [and] we expect the Community to keep this as a major issue before it,” Christie said.

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