STORY by RAVI BALGOBIN MAHARAJ
There was a ruling in the High Court two weeks ago that deserved to be made known to the public, but somehow just got misplaced by the local news outlets
In the Judicial Review between Mr Brendon West and the Minister of Energy and Energy Industries, High Court Justice Mira Dean-Amorer delivered a verdict in favour of Mr West being granted a mining licence, some ten years after he made his initial application. Congratulations must be given to Mr Kelvin Ramkisson who represented Mr West quite admirably and emerged victorious at the end of the twenty-month trial. This mark yet another defeat in the courts for the PNM administration, however, who are again faced with the payment of legal fees and damages to the claimant, which of course will be withdrawn from the public purse.
The case itself revolved around the issuance of the PNM’s decision to rescind the issuance of a mining licence for which Mr West had already received pre-clearance, and instead hand the contract over to Bestcrete, which is a subsidiary of the ANSA McAl Group of Companies. Despite complying with much of the prerequisites that were necessary for obtaining the licence, the Ministry used various loopholes to stymie and eventually terminate the process, a decision which Justice Dean-Amorer classified as being “flawed on the ground of irrationality” when handing down her verdict.
Justice Dean-Amorer also took the time to point out the Constitutional Right to Equality which was denied to Mr West when Bestcrete was given preference by the Minister of Energy and lamented that a Constitutional motion was not filed to provide compensation for such a grave injustice. In light of that, however, not only was Mr West given the opportunity to be issued his mining licence for five years, but Mr Ramkissoon was also successful in having the court issue an injunction preventing the Ministry of Energy from granting any new licences.
Ridiculous leaps of logic
This case is only another instance in which the PNM have sought to reclaim a state contract from a small business in favour of conglomerates with whom they are familiar. But it also highlights the deficiencies within the legislation that are being proposed for the decriminalisation of marijuana, as it presents the government with the opportunity for this type of un-Constitutional behaviour.
In what can only be described as one of the most ridiculous leaps of logic made by an Attorney General, Faris Al Rawi has gone on record as stating that the full legalisation of marijuana would allow the criminal gangs to continue to profit from the illegal trade. A few things to unpack here are:
- If marijuana was made legal it would immediately open up the market, reduce prices and make the product more accessible;
- If people were able to purchase the product on the open market, these criminal enterprises would lose their monopoly and eventually be driven out of business through sheer competition; and
- By restricting the number of plants an individual could own or the amount of drug they could possess creates an environment where the illegal trade could still thrive.
The real reason that the PNM have seemingly opted to go down the route of decriminalisation rather than legalisation appears to be crafted in a way to allow an elite class of businesses to gain a foothold in the industry before it opens up into a free market. Through licences that would be given to specific companies and laboratories to research and develop the plant for various uses, the PNM is only interested in shifting the monopoly of the marijuana trade from the criminal entities to the specially chosen business owners, who often demand a first preference from the government.
What this would create is an environment similar to the tobacco industry, wherein small businesses seeking entry into the domain will be met with regulations and standards with which they would never be able to comply or compete. If allowed to take place it will only be a matter of time that the very same four plant rule will also be overturned using the same logic that criminalises babash, cigarette paper and whe-whe.
Marijuana maybe the key
For some time now I have held the opinion that marijuana may be the key to revitalising the agriculture sector, with the potential for export being at the forefront. With the expansion of decriminalisation and legalisation occurring across the globe, there are untapped markets just waiting for these products. But it is only through legalisation in T&T, that people would be allowed to conduct research and development of the various products that could enter into those markets.
Instead, the PNM is determined to give this opportunity to those who may already be entitled to those foreign markets, leaving the small man out of the conversation as usual.