President Irfaan Ali has said that his focus is on ensuring that the legislative framework is in place for industrial hemp first before tackling the issue of reduced sentencing for marijuana use and possession.
“I rather look at the hemp industry at the moment,” the President said recently when asked for his opinion on decriminalizing marijuana.
Cabinet, with advice from the Defence Board, recently gave the greenlight for the Guyana Hemp Policy after years of advocacy from local activists.
The President said he is convinced of the economic possibilities of hemp.
“Hemp as an economic driver and value-added that has tremendous financial benefits that are sustainable… that’s why I’m saying that in my opinion, it is viable.
“There are possibilities there that I think it would be helpful from an economic and financial perspective that does not affect the wellbeing of people,” he said.
Co-Chair of the Guyana Hemp Industries (GHI) Michael Kirton and Vice President Dr Bharat Jagdeo met recently.
It is now left up to the Attorney General and other key stakeholders like the Ministry of Agriculture to put the regulatory framework in place.
It comes after almost five years of dedicated and serious lobbying and millions of dollars spent on education awareness. According to Kirton, the latest development has increased enthusiasm among those who have long lobbied for the legalisation of hemp in Guyana.
He hopes that the first hemp seed can be planted here by August 2021 but a regulatory framework will have to be put in place first. That framework would likely see the setting up of an agency that would monitor the industry in terms of licensing, taxes and other regulations.
Meanwhile, the government continues to face lobbying from the Rastafarian community for the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana.
There is currently a government piloted ganja bill before the National Assembly. It is now with a Special Parliamentary Committee for further consultations.
But amid anticipation that the process might run on for several months, the Rastafarian community wants government to take steps to suspend jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The government Bill proposes counselling and community service for persons found with between 15 to 30 grams of marijuana, instead of mandatory jail time.