Antigua and Barbuda looks set to decriminalise cannabis, following several other countries in the region. An amendment to existing drugs laws has been passed by the Lower House, and is set for debate in the Upper House, the Senate, in July; no opposition is anticipated.
Aspects of the bill include the decriminalisation of possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis for personal use (not legalisation; if in a public place, a ticket and fine may still apply), and for a household to be able to grow up to four plants. It would become legal for Rastafarians to use the plant as part of their religious observations.
The government has also announced impending talks regarding the medicinal use of marijuana and the issuing of licenses for farmers to be allowed to grow the plant. If it became legal for farmers to grow the plant as a crop, that could potentially open up access to markets in the swiftly growing number of countries where use of cannabis has been and is about to be legalised.
There have been allegations that the timing of this bill has a great deal to do with the imminent election, announced for 21 March, where the incumbent Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, hopes to be re-elected. Although stating that his government is not advocating the use of cannabis, Browne has said that, “It is, in essence, a part of the culture of the country.” He has asked the police to stop incriminating marijuana users in this interim period, and intends to expunge prior convictions for possession of the drug.