St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – Two Bills were passed during the February 8 sitting of the National House of Assembly, the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and the Official Gazette Bill, 2023.
“The purpose of the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) (Amendment) Bill, 2023 is to amend the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Act to expand the offenses by which convicted person’s criminal [records] can be expunged to include cultivation of five or less cannabis plants or cultivating such that a convicted person was fined or sentenced for imprisonment less than three years.” – Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr Terrane Drew, the mover of the Bill.
Parliamentary member for Constituency No. 7, Hon. Dr Timothy Harris, during the debate on the Bill, spoke of a challenge that has hindered the development of the Cannabis industry in other Caribbean territories.
“One of the reasons why the industry has not moved in the way that we would like, whether in Jamaica, Antigua, St. Vincent, and the Grenadines, has to do with issues related to other international obligations, the banking system; how do you get into that? Because whatever we may attempt to do here, the [bank’s] risk correspondent relationship, if they were to engage in a certain way, while internationally there is still the prohibition in relation to what some consider a controlled drug and the implication of that into the banking system. It is a matter which the Currency Union, the Monetary Council has had to look at as part of our conversation of how we are going to move forward.”
Attorney-General, Hon. Garth Wilkin explained that the administration’s trajectory would fill the gaps and loopholes that may run any risk of breaching international drug and narcotic agreements the Federation signed.
“This piece of legislation … is filling the gap that was recognised by the court and recognised by the cannabis Commission that if you are moving forward by allowing possession of a certain amount, cultivation at a certain moment, lisencnig to farmers to produce medical marijuana, allowing Rastafarians to practice the sacrament of smoking cannabis within their religious groups, then you must also address the injustices that happened in the past.”
Attorney-General Wilkin continued, “The original amendment in 2022 said if you were convicted of possession of cannabis of a certain amount, or you were convicted of possession of cannabis and your sentence was a certain amount or you were fined, then your record is expunged. All this piece of legislation that has been tabled is doing is seeking to say if you cultivated five or less trees and you were convicted, your records could be expunged, if you were convicted of cultivating any of the trees and the sentence was a fine or imprisonment of three years or less your record is expunged, and this is in keeping with the constitutional rights that will recognise the Sankofah case.”
The debate of the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) (Amendment) Bill continued as the administration and opposition spoke on the Bill until it was eventually passed and will be Gazetted into law.
The second Bill debated, the Official Gazette Bill, sought to modernise the publication of Official Gazettes by providing them digitally.
“The purpose of the Official Gazette Bill is to create certainty, as to when laws and Statutory Instruments are published and to provide for the digitisation and publication of the official Gazettes of St Christopher and Nevis. It is a modernisation Bill. The Constitution defines the Gazette as the official gazette of St Christopher and Nevis. However, there was never standalone law that set out the parameters of operation of the official Gazette.” – Mover of the Bill Attorney-General, Hon. Garth Wilkin.
The AG explained why the Official Gazette Bill was part of the good governance agenda.
“The reason why we have added this Bill to the good governance agenda is because it fits part of that agenda, which is accountability and transparency. If you have laws, if you have proclamations, if you have judgments, if you have decisions of government that must be published in the Gazette, accountability and transparency is allowing all of the people access to those laws, those decisions, those lists etc.”
Following support for the Official Gazette Bill, it was read a third time and will be Gazetted into law.