“The consequence would be something along the lines of an administrative fine, a fixed penalty, or perhaps for the first occasion or for a very small amount, it might even be just a warning from the police at that time.”
(CMR) Members of Parliament have voted in the majority to support a referendum on a national lottery and decriminalization of small quantities of cannabis. The Motion was voted 16 in favor, 1 abstention, and 1 absentee. The referendum will go forward, and a date will be announced in the future.
The passage of the motion means that a draft bill will be penned, setting out the specific questions that the electorate would have to consider in the referendum. MPs would vote on the bill and the referendum would be triggered.
Premier Panton moved the motion in the House and indicated the estimated cost is around $1.1 million but was necessary for the people to vote on these important issues. He anticipates the national vote could take place as early as the first quarter of next year.
Speaking specifically to the two matters that will be contained in the bill, he confirmed that there is no intention to legalize marijuana in the Cayman Islands. Instead, the question will b related to removing the criminal element for small quantities of the substance. There are no details as yet on what would constitute “a small quantity”.
While many fear that this is the first step to the legalization of marijuana, Panton shared that Cayman is bound by a United Nations convention that prevents it from legalizing ganja, so decriminalizing is the only option.
He clarified the parameters that would be in place:
“It is important to point out that this is not about permitting the open possession or consumption of cannabis or public smoking or vaping of cannabis or cultivation of cannabis.”
On the matter of the national lottery, the question would be related to the establishment of a national lottery but not the legalization of gambling generally. A gambling bill is currently seeking to increase the penalties relating to gambling. However, the hopes are that if the majority of the people were in favor of a national lottery system legalization, that would allow for control measures to be implemented.
As it currently stands, Panton pointed out that the numbers racket, which is quite popular in the Cayman Islands, allows for “unsafe, unregulated and unchecked” gambling on our islands.
Deputy Premier Chris Saunders supported the consideration of a national lottery, sharing that some number sellers were making $10,000 per week. However, because the funds are illegal profits, they are not able to use the banking system and become easy prey for other criminals seeking to target them for robberies. Several people have died as a result of being involved in either buying or selling numbers.
The latest high-profile incident involved retired prison officer Harry Elliott who was killed in April.
Red Bay MP Alden McLaughlin abstained from the vote because, he said, the resolution section of the motion was “fundamentally flawed”. He noted that the government was “politically naive” and should campaign on a side of the issues being presented as opposed to just talking the pulse of the electorate. He asked for more “precise wording”.
Premier Panton confirmed that the wording for the referendum had not yet been finalized.