The T&T Association of Psychologists (TTAP) is supporting the proposed move to conditionally decriminalise marijuana possession.
The association of mental health experts made the statement in a press release issued by its public relations officer Kelly McFarlane, yesterday afternoon.
McFarlane said: "After a consideration of the social, medicinal and developmental factors, we believe that under the current dispensation where the possession of even small quantities of marijuana for personal use is illegal and attacks punitive prison sentences, these punitive measures can result in a great deal of social displacement, financial hardship, career interruptions and family dislocations."
Referring to a 2019 report from television station CNC3, the association noted that between 2007 and 2018, there were 80,815 marijuana-related court matters. The report also highlighted that almost a third of persons in remand were there on marijuana-related offences.
"Despite its positive medicinal reputation and its minimal known impact on social and interpersonal disharmony, marijuana-related arrests have been significant in number in T&T, the effect of which is notable," McFarlane said.
McFarlane suggested that such cases did not only affect those who were arrested and charged, but also their relatives.
"The children of these prisoners are often stigmatized and subjected to bullying in their schools and these disruptions in family life has very little social value and contributes to a fractured social order," she said.
In addition to assisting local marijuana users, McFarlane suggested that decriminalisation would help to dismantle the multi-million marijuana trafficking trade and provide revenue through a regulated industry.
"These measures will not only reduce cost to the taxpayer but provide a new revenue stream to the State through the implementation of licence fees and taxes," she said.
McFarlane stated that ongoing research into cannabinoids, the chemical compounds found in the marijuana plant, showed that they were useful in treating ailments such as epilepsy, glaucoma, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and cancer. However, McFarlane noted that her organisation was still advocating for moderation in use.
"Understanding the appropriate usage is of crucial importance if one is to benefit from the herb without suffering any associated potential negative effects including addiction and other mental health challenges," she said.
Speaking with reporters, last month, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi revealed that his office had completed drafting legislation, which was formulated after extensive public consultation across T&T.
At the time, Al-Rawi did not divulge details on the provisions of the proposed legislation, but he did reveal that it would feature decriminalisation for possession of small amounts of marijuana and regulatory framework for production, distribution, and consumption of medical marijuana.
The legislation is expected to be tabled when the new Parliamentary term opens, next month.
The move for decriminalisation comes after it was introduced in numerous regional countries. Last year, Caricom's Regional Commission on Marijuana delivered a detailed report, in which it recommended decriminalisation in member states.