Nevis Premier supports latest national Cannabis Smoking Bill; entreats more comprehensive legislation

June 23, 2023 in National

Premier of Nevis Hon. Mark Brantley, Leader of the Opposition of the National Assembly of St. Kitts and Nevis signaled his support for the Smoking (Designated Areas) Bill, 2023, however he expressed the view that the Federation’s Cannabis-related legislation ought to be more comprehensive and include adequate public education.

The Smoking (Designated Areas) Bill, 2023, tabled by Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew, had its second reading and was passed during the sitting of the National Assembly on June 20. The bill allows for persons to be able to smoke cannabis and other material in public places designated as “smoking areas”. Public places include “an indoor or outdoor area, whether privately or publicly owned, to which the public has access”.

During the debate, Premier Brantley said, “It seems to me that as a country we need to take a decision; we’re either going to do it or we’re not going to do it. Instead we keep coming and we keep tinkering- touch a piece here, touch a little piece next year, or the year after…I really feel we need to be bold in what it is we are going to do.

“I feel I want to support what is happening today…but I also want to sound the signal that I feel that it is time that we decide where we’re going to go on the bigger question of legalization of Cannabis…But let me be clear, while I advocate that we must take that decision, that of the 195 countries represented at the United Nations, my research suggests that 143 of them still treat Cannabis as illegal, including most of Africa most of the Middle East and Asia. So we would be among a minority of countries globally that would set our foot on this particular path of legalization if the government were to so decide that that is what we should do.”

Premier Brantley suggested that more time and wider public education should have preceded the legislation coming to the parliament to ensure a broad-based approach to the issue of Cannabis use, as it pertains to the laws of St. Kitts and Nevis.

He also raised the issue of how areas designated for smoking would be introduced so as to prevent non-smokers, especially those who suffer from asthma and other respiratory problems, from being exposed to the smoke. He made the point against the backdrop of the “420 friendly” designation for the open-air St. Kitts Music Festival, which starts of Thursday, June 22.

“So you may be asthmatic but decide you want to go to Music Festival to enjoy yourself. You buy your ticket and you say I don’t want to be in any designated smoking area so let me go to an area that is not, but the smoke reaches you anyway. I’m not saying that to suggest that what we’re doing should not be done, I’m saying that to suggest that what we’re doing, in my view, needs additional thought applied to it to say well how are we going to achieve this,” he said.

“This is why I’m saying that sometimes we get unintended consequences from legitimate efforts, because I would not decry the legitimacy of what is being attempted today, of how we can deal with it. That’s a practical matter, and so I would hope as we implement the legislation we try to implement it in such a way as to avoid any fallout.”

The Honourable Brantley also made reference to the policing of persons driving under the influence of marijuana.

Deputy Premier of Nevis Hon. Eric Evelyn, parliamentary representative for Nevis 10, Hon. Alexis Jeffers, parliamentary representative for Nevis 11, and Opposition Senator Hon. Latoya Jones, Deputy Speaker of the House, all expressed support for the legislation.