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Gopeesingh: Referendum way to go on issue

Published: 
Thursday, May 17, 2018

United National Congress (UNC) chairman David Lee says the call by Independent Senator Dhanayshar Mahabir to legalise medicinal marijuana is not an issue for the Opposition at this time. However, he says if the Government is serious about pursuing the matter, there should be public consultations to gauge the feedback from stakeholders and possibly a referendum on it.

Lee was giving his views on whether the UNC would support legalising medicinal marijuana, one day after Mahabir threw it out yet again in the Senate as an option for treating patients with various diseases and illnesses. In putting forward his case on Tuesday, Mahabir said the use of such drugs can also rake in billions of dollars in revenue and help diversify T&T’s economy. This was Mahabir’s second call for the drug to be legalised. His first call came in March during another sitting.

Yesterday, Lee said the personal views of Mahabir had not come up anywhere in the Parliament framework.

“It is not something we caucused about. It has not come up at caucus and no one has raised it at the Parliamentary level. The Government of the day has not raised it on its legislative agenda, so it is not an issue for us at this point in time.”

Asked if the UNC’s national executive had discussed the matter, Lee said no.

“We really don’t have a view on the issue that Dhanayshar has raised. It is not a concern for us at this point in time. That is a whole legislation issue.”

Asked if there was a provision in the Dangerous Drug Act to allow the legalisation of medicinal marijuana if the majority of the country called for it, Lee said this was beyond his purview.

“I can’t say.”

He said while a lot of states in the USA have legalised medicinal marijuana, “in my personal view, I don’t know what are the long-term social consequences of something like that. It is something one has to be very cautious about in proceeding in that fashion.”

He said not because some states in the US had gone this route, T&T should should do likewise.

“That is something that needs proper consultation with the people.

It should have public consultation.

If the Government feels strong about it and wants the views of the people they can do it.

It is not something we support or do not support.”

Opposition MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh meanwhile said legalisation of marijuana was not a simple matter.

“We know there are medical benefits to it. I think a national referendum is the way to go with this.

We have always said so.

We have to listen to the voice of the people.

Let the people decide.”

Gopeesingh said one also needed to look at the longitudinal research studies to determine the intricacies involved in medicinal marijuana.

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