While government is committed to the decriminalisation of possessing certain quantities of marijuana, there will not be a wholesale legalisation of the drug in the Cayman Islands, Deputy Premier Chris Saunders has confirmed.
“The whole idea behind this [decriminalisation] is to make sure that young people [aren’t] hindered from getting employment and can take up educational opportunities. I am not in support of legalising marijuana at this point,” Saunders said, as he addressed the issue on the Cayman Compass weekly Facebook talkshow ‘The Resh Hour’ on 28 July.
He said this is aimed at those who are caught with small amounts of the drug for recreational purposes.
“I don’t want any of my kids doing it [smoking marijuana] and it’s for that reason I wouldn’t legalise it for anyone’s child to do it, especially when you look at the recent National Drug Council report with drugs among kids in schools… no, I can’t,” he said.
He said people should be given a second chance to avoid a criminal record that will affect their potential employment.
“A lot of young people are actually seriously impacted by it and especially when it comes to going off to school overseas, they’re seriously impacted by it. So I think that’s one of the things that we need to do,” he said.
Premier Wayne Panton announced plans to decriminalise marijuana when he delivered his Strategic Policy Statement earlier this month.
A total of 88% of Compass readers, in an online poll on the issue, voted in favour of the planned decriminalisation while 10% were against and 1% remained undecided.
The decision, Saunders said, has already been made on this issue.
He added that he did not see the need for a referendum on the matter, because it was an issue government members campaigned on, which was endorsed through their success at the polls.
He said there will be limitations when it comes to the amount of marijuana covered by the decriminalisation.
“We still have to determine what the quantity should be, because I can guarantee you one thing: if you’re walking around with 30 pounds of marijuana – that ain’t for your personal use,” he said, adding there are other legislative changes to be finalised.
He acknowledged there are some in the community not in support of the move, but he said it was a necessary step to help those who needed it.
Vaccinations, Caymanian employment are priorities
Saunders, speaking on the show, also broached the topic of how government is working with the business community to get more Caymanians into the workforce, especially as the country gears up to reopen borders and the focus is on boosting the jurisdiction’s vaccination numbers.
He said a committee has been established to drive the Caymanian-first initiative for employment and that includes providing training opportunities.
More Caymanians on the job, he said, is the driving force behind plans to increase certain categories of work-permit fees.
“It is not going to be easy for people to get work permits when Caymanian labour is available,” he stressed.
As for mandatory vaccinations, the deputy premier said government will be guided by the advice of the medical experts and will continue to encourage residents to get the jab.
When it comes to requiring vaccinations for the civil service, he said, that is a matter for the governor and the deputy governor to decide.
Editor’s note: Deputy Premier Chris Saunders, 17:41 minutes into the interview, pointed out that the Delta variant is killing vaccinated people. He further clarified that “The point that I was making is that the Delta variant needs to be taken very seriously. While no vaccine is 100%…getting vaccinated is still the best defense against the Coronavirus.”