The Caribbean is questioning its enduring ties to the British Crown, as it seeks to turn the page on its entire colonial past. Over the next few years, we are likely to see many of the independent Caribbean nations that maintain constitutional relations with the British monarch transform into republics, led by local heads of state. These winds of change can also inspire new thinking regarding the legalization of cannabis.
Many former British territories chose to keep the British monarch as head of state after their independence. An example that many Americans are familiar with is Canada. The fact that Canada is royal explains why the names of some Canadian government agencies include the prefix “regal” (eg, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and why Queen Elizabeth II adorns Canadian coins.
Until recently, the situation was in Barbados It used to be similar to Canada, but on November 30, 2021, the island became a republic, bidding farewell to centuries of royal rule. The significance of the event went far beyond the change in the country’s form of government: for the first time in its history, the head of state of Barbados is Barbados, not a British king or queen.
In all likelihood, Barbados will be the first domino to fall in the Caribbean. Prime Minister Jamaica He made clear in March 2022 to visiting Prince William that he hoped his country would soon follow Barbados’ lead. In April, Prime Minister Antigua and Barbuda He told other members of the royal family that his country “must become a republic someday”.
What does all this have to do with hemp?
To be sure, the Republican wave will not, by itself, lead to the legalization of cannabis in the Caribbean. Despite their links to the British monarchy, countries like Jamaica are independent, which is why they have a choice when it comes to their form of government in the first place. While the British monarch, through the Governor-General whom he appoints, must give royal assent to the legislation of these countries, this is largely symbolic (though not necessarily in places that remain British Overseas Territories, as we have shown in British Virgin Islands Cannabis: Trouble in Heaven).
At the same time, what happens in the Caribbean could have an impact on cannabis policy. The winds of change we described above may bring new perspectives on the state to the people of the region, including a reassessment of the legal status of cannabis.
The former British colonies in the Caribbean not only inherited British legal traditions when they became independent: most of them remained part of the British legal system to some extent. To this day, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council The London serves as the highest court of appeal for many independent Caribbean countries.
When reviewing a file drug laws (or indeed any laws) of the former British Caribbean, one cannot help but notice how similar they are to British laws, right down to the printing and design of the original documents. This is no coincidence, of course: many of the laws in the books have their origins in the colonial era. This does not mean that Caribbean countries are legally automated when it comes to cannabis or any other subject; However, the enduring respect for the legal framework established during the British era is understandable (particularly in countries that share a monarchy with the United Kingdom).
Digging into attitudes toward cannabis in the former British Empire is outside the purview of this blog. However, by the 20th century, the somewhat more contradictory views of days gone by had hardened, leading to the decriminalization of cannabis in places like Jamaica. like Barney the war He notes that “missionaries denounced ‘vile cannabis’; increasing official rejection led to crusades against marijuana, claiming that their use led to increased crime rates.”
Another important development when it comes to cannabis in the Caribbean was the massive increase in immigration from the region to the United Kingdom after World War II. For some in the UK, this wave of immigration was a problem, and cannabis was part of the problem. In 1951, head of the country’s drug branch warned This is what:
Something could be done…to stop the ‘invasion’ of unemployed men of colour (mostly British subjects) from Africa and the British West Indies [i.e., the Caribbean]In a very short period of time in this country, we will have a serious cannabis problem.”
It is hard to imagine that such views did not inform the British colonial authorities in the Caribbean, which contributed to the prohibition. Keep in mind that in 1951, the British still ruled all of their former lands in the region.
In the words of a reporter, Barbados resolution Adopting the Republic is “more of an emotional, historical, and symbolic decision than a practical one”, and this is likely to be true of others who follow it. However, emotional changes can help bring about practical changes as well.
Moving forward, expect Caribbean nations to increasingly define their voices and question the legacy of the past. In this environment of change, it would be natural for these states to reconsider their cannabis laws. To the extent that prohibition approaches conflict with the realities of the region, they may seek more constructive models, which de-stigmatize cannabis use and allow their communities to integrate into the global cannabis economy.