Tuesday 7 July, 2020

Al-Rawi: Marijuana legislation coming early 2019

The decriminalisation of marijuana may be coming sooner than you think.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi in response to an Urgent Question in Senate on Tuesday indicated that the issue was a matter of priority and will be laid in Parliament in the first half of 2019.

Al-Rawi revealed that consultations with stakeholders have already begun with public sessions to begin after feedback is received from interest groups.

He explained that Government is working to ensure that it’s thorough in its consultation process and as such intends to collate the information from this feedback and address it in public consultation, which is expected to be conducted across the country.

“So what we have to do is go to the public domain exactly as we did in our prison consultation, our child marriage consultation and several of our other issues and get the voices of the people in open forum with open microphones, with open communication.”

This, he said, will ensure that they have the “widest form of understanding of this particular topic”.

While the Attorney General could not provide a list of interest groups and organisations engaged on the matter, he said Government had written to around 100 stakeholders.

“We’ve written to about 100 entities and we’ve received umpteen replies, so I couldn’t do justice to all of the stakeholders but we’ve included a very broad subsection.

We’ve written to the Medical Association, to the Law Association and to special interest groups. Interest groups have approached us, private citizens have approached us.”

Questioned further by Opposition Senator Wade Mark on whether a list of the stakeholder and interest groups would be made available ahead of these public consultations, Al-Rawi said he was two minds about doing so as it was an ongoing process.

The Attorney General issued an invitation to the Opposition to write in offering their points of view and expressed the hope that Government would receive Opposition support on the matter,

“This is an ongoing process and it will become public in a very short space of time when we go to the public domain... So, I welcome the Opposition but when we go public everybody will be invited and we will address the issue of exactly who we’ve received consultation from at that point because I hope on this occasion we will have some support from the Opposition.”

Responding to further questions on the matter, Al-Rawi said Government would opt not to produce a green paper.

He said the best way to treat with the issue is to do it in the same way Government approached the issue of child marriage.

“You see, for far too long our country has been stuck in analysis paralysis,” he said.

Al-Rawi stated that it is Government’s intention to dive into the issue and get busy with producing the work product.

Legislation to protect prison officers will also be laid in Parliament during early 2019.

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