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Religious Cannabis Use Provisions Are Creating Confusion In Trinidad And Tobago

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Trinidad and Tobago is a dual-island Caribbean nation that is home to roughly 1.4 million people, some of which use cannabis for religious purposes. The most well-known religious group in the nation that uses cannabis for sacramental purposes is the Rastafarians.

The Caribbean nation is currently working to ramp up its medical cannabis industry, with a bill working its way through the House of Representatives. The provisions specific to religious use seem to be causing quite a bit of confusion.

There are five cannabis licences that people who use cannabis for religious purposes can apply for:

  • a cultivator licence
  • dispensary
  • import licence
  • export licence
  • transport licence

The licenses can only be obtained after the organization they are a part of is registered per the Non-Profit Organisations Act, and the organization attests that its members use cannabis for religious purposes. However, getting a license apparently creates additional issues under the provisions of the proposed measure in the House, as described by Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally earlier this month. Per Newsday:

He said while only a specific amount of marijuana for sacramental or religious purposes would be available, it did not address how religious leaders would be expected to get it as the sale of marijuana was prohibited under the bill.

“When we look at Clause 47, we are told that there must be no commercial benefit, no sale, supply or any transaction involving cannabis for sale, profit, monetary gain or compensation. But not even water which falls from the sky is free, so how then are we expecting the religious groups to procure, store, maintain and dispense cannabis, completely devoid of any cash flow, to facilitate a basic access to cannabis for religious use?

“Anyone who contravenes the section, that is to say engages in handling cannabis for money not necessarily for profit because it can be for mere reimbursement of monies used in acquisition, can be liable to stiff penalties.”

Members of Trinidad and Tobago’s Rastafarian community are pointing out that if getting a license doesn’t allow them to possess more cannabis, then why go through the trouble of obtaining a license?

Cannabis was decriminalized in Trinidad and Tobago in 2019, and people can possess up to 30 grams of cannabis and cultivate up to 4 plants on their own property.

Trinidad and Tobago