Too Many of Trinidad and Tobago’s Youth Languish in Jail: Rowley
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The Trinidad and Tobago government says it will review legislation regarding marijuana use after Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley acknowledged that “our jails are full of young people”.
Rowley, who is campaigning ahead of internal elections within the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM), told party supporters on Sunday night that many of the people arrested “can’t raise bail so they rot inside the jail.”
“That is a matter of social justice that needs to be addressed. It is my responsibility as leader of this country to have this matter properly examined and I am in discussion with the Attorney General to determine how we treat with this problem, so that societal destruction, that injustice like the other changes we have made along the way…because it is a problem that could only get worse,” Rowley told the meeting in Diego martin, west of here.
“Our jails are full of young people, largely young men of our societies because they smoke a marijuana cigarette. Many of them may have smoked two, all of them would have their lives negatively affected by having smoked a marijuana cigarette because the law in this country makes smoking of a marijuana cigarette as criminal offence.”
Rowley said that it was ironical that a person could “drink as much rum as they want. Drunk and drive and kill people in the road…they don’t get charged,” he said.
He said persons could smoke as many cigarettes as they want “poison people with second hand smoke and don’t get charge and be a criminal, but the marijuana smoking in the upper echelons of society where a serious number of acres of marijuana is burnt, very few of them end up in jail”.
He told the meeting that if those in the upper echelons of society are charged “it is very unlikely that they will end up in the jail” unlike those from depressed areas like Laventille, along the east west corridor, where the “gift” for being caught with marijuana is a jail sentence.
Rowley acknowledged that the issue is also affecting families.
“As I examined this problem in recent times, I have met fathers who’ve lost their jobs because they smoked a marijuana cigarette and they are in jail. Their children are unattended and unsupported. I am sure that was not the intention of the law.”
“But of course it has to be managed because I do not buy for one moment that there are not deleterious effects from smoking marijuana but the management of the offence has created its own problem and this country must now address it,” he said.
Several Caribbean countries, notably Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, have taken legislation to their respective parliaments to deal with the use of marijuana not only for medicinal purposes, but to relax the harsh penalties for persons caught with a minimum of marijuana.
In July, the Caribbean Collective for Justice (CCJ) submitted a petition with more than 10,000 signatures to the Trinidad and Tobago government urging it to hold a national consultation on marijuana decriminalisation. – CMC