A new National Democratic Party (NDP) government, headed by Hon. Myron Walwyn, will take seriously reviewing the archaic laws relating to the unlawful use of small amounts of cannabis (marijuana).
Hon. Walwyn, who has been pushing for the decriminalization of small quantities of cannabis to avoid giving young people a criminal record for such an offense, made the promise on Friday evening, February 8 in Purcell Estate.
He said that their approach should mirror that of other Caribbean islands, including Bermuda.
“The damage to them in their personal and professional lives, outweighs whatever damage their actions may have caused to the society for smoking a joint. We don’t have to look very far to see how this matter has been handled."
"We can look to Bermuda, which is also an Overseas Territory of Britain, to see how they have decriminalized small quantities of marijuana up to seven grams, but have empowered the police to confiscate the substance,” he said.
Hon. Walwyn, who also holds responsibilities for youth affairs, further argued that provisions were also made in Bermuda law for persons to receive education on the side effects of the repeated use of marijuana if they are found with it, in their possession, too often.
“That to me is a common-sense approach to dealing with this issue. The new NDP government will be on the frontlines leading this charge,” he assured.
He told the gathering, which also comprised of young people, that the current law can interfere with the job prospects and opportunities for the young people.
“I have seen the effects of young people, particularly young men with a criminal record for simple possession of marijuana. I am in no way condoning smoking of marijuana, but it is time for us to take a long hard look at some of the archaic laws in our Territory,” the NDP leader said.
“Should we stunt the growth of a young man or young woman for having less than seven grams of marijuana in their possession? I say no. Many of us do not realize how this affects the development of our young people—from simple opportunities such as getting travel visas to long term damage such as not being hired because of your police record,” he pointed out.
In July of last year, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Kim Hollis QC disclosed that formal efforts are being made to commence the legislative process of the proposed decriminalization of cannabis in the BVI. However, Hollis QC, who was asked to give her opinion on the proposed legislation, said that she was not impressed.
The DPP had indicated that the proposed amendment broadly calls for the decriminalization of cannabis, and is silent on critical matters that can adversely affect the Territory.
In light of the public debate on the issue, Commissioner of Police, Michael Matthews said that the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) will not be bending the laws in relation to persons found with small quantities of marijuana. He said the police cannot choose which laws to enforce.