BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, February 08, 2022 (SKNIS) – The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis has followed through on its commitment to table legislations in the National Assembly to address a number of inconsistencies and to permit the Court to expunge the criminal records of persons convicted in the past of minor cannabis-related offences.
This was done through the passage of the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) (Amendment) Bill, 2023, in the National Assembly on February 08, 2023.
The purpose of the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) (Amendment) Bill, 2023, was to amend the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Act to expand the offences by which convicted persons’ criminal records can be expunged to include cultivation of five (5) or less cannabis plants or cultivation such that the convicted person was fined or sentenced for imprisonment for less than three years.
Mover of this important piece of legislation, Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, the Honourable Dr. Terrance Drew, said that many young persons here in St. Kitts and Nevis have had their lives and future aspirations derailed after being convicted of minor cannabis-related offences.
“This affects young people aspiring to careers in medicine, as well as many others who are denied housing, education, loans and job opportunities. This is what is happening. A lot of [young people] can’t aspire anymore because they were caught with a small amount of cannabis some years ago,” the prime minister stressed.
Dr. Drew indicated that with the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) (Amendment) Bill, 2023, the government is now respecting the constitutional rights declared in the May 2019 landmark decision of the High Court in Ras Sankofa Maccabee v the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney-General.
“Prior to the decision by the High Court in the Ras Sankofa Maccabee case in May 2019, the possession and cultivation of cannabis was illegal and punishable by fines or imprisonment. The High Court in the Ras Sankofa Maccabee decision adjudged that (a) section 6.2 of the Drugs Act is inconsistent with and, therefore, infringes the Constitutional rights to privacy, freedom of conscience and religion to the extent to which it makes no exception for possession by an adult in a private place of any amount of cannabis for his or her personal use in private and for religious use by adults in the Rastafari religion,” Prime Minister Dr. Drew stated.
“Section 7.1 of the Drugs Act is inconsistent with and therefore infringes the Constitutional rights to privacy, freedom of conscience and religion to the extent to which it makes no exception for the cultivation by an adult in a private place of any amount of cannabis for his or her personal use in private and by an adult member of the Rastafari religion for religious use by adults in the Rastafari religion,” the prime minister added. .
The prime minister further noted that amendments to the Criminal Records Act in February of 2020, by the former administration fell considerably short in addressing some of the concerns outlined in the decision of the Ras Sankofa Maccabee case.
He said, “In February 2020, the Criminal Records Act was amended to provide that all persons convicted of an offence or offences involving 56 grams of cannabis or 15 grams of cannabis resin or less shall be deemed spent and their criminal records expunged. However, under the last administration, the amendment didn’t address cannabis cultivation convictions—we do not agree with that position. Therefore, the plan of this Government – the people’s Government – is to firmly support the flourishing of a new medical cannabis industry where farmers can be licensed to cultivate cannabis and sell that cannabis for medical uses.”
The Honourable Dr. Terrance Drew-led administration has since appointed Dr. Garfield Alexander as the Chief Executive Officer of the Medicinal Cannabis Authority.