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Should sex work, ganja use be decriminalised?

Trinidad Express / Barataria/San Juan MP Dr Fuad Khan has called for the decriminalisation of marijuana and sex workers.

He said illegal activity as marijuana use or prostitution pose no real threat or danger to society and too often persons charged with these offences are oppressed, humiliated and branded as criminals. And by decriminalising these actions, he said, it will protect thousands of citizens from being sent to jail unnecessarily and preserve their lives, which would have been destroyed as a result.

Khan said it will also provide Government with the ability to put regulations in place and weed out any criminal elements that may be entangled within them.

Following his contribution to the 2018 Appropriation Bill in Parliament last week, Khan said, he has been inundated with calls and messages in support of his statement.

Khan said as is the case with all psychotropic drugs, both legal and illegal, marijuana has the ability to lead to debilitating addiction and all of the fallout associated with that. But in small doses marijuana also has many applications in medicine and presents a healthier alternative to persons who consume other narcotics, both legal and illegal, he said.

Khan noted that under the current law however, the lowest fine and sentence for the possession of marijuana is $25,000 and five years imprisonment. “For context, the lowest fine and sentence for larceny is three thousand dollars ($3,000) OR six months imprisonment,” he said.

Khan said persons who are forced to employ themselves as sex workers were also targeted on a regular basis by law enforcement.

He said these persons who may be living on the earnings of prostitution are liable on conviction to imprisonment for five years. He said the decriminalisation of sex workers would help to stop the spread of HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases.

“Being prosecuted is a small risk compared to the range of Sexually Transmitted Diseases that these persons are exposed to however, and the lack of regulation increases not only their chance of infection but also the potential for them to become carriers of these diseases. For this reason, organizations such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, the United Nations Population Fund, the World Health Organization and Amnesty International have all supported the decriminalization of sex work in an effort to stop the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and ensure sex workers’ access to health services. As such, countries such as Canada, Sweden, Denmark, and states such as Nevada, USA and New South Wales, Australia have revised their laws on prostitution to decriminalize it in some form,” he said.

Khan said every day persons infringe upon the law in some manner but are not used to prejudice as persons charged with marijuana related offences and sex workers.

“In the same way, illegal activity such as marijuana use and prostitution, which poses no real threat or danger to society, should not should not be used as an excuse to oppress and humiliate thousands of people by branding and prosecuting them as criminals. By decriminalizing these actions it provides the government with the ability to put regulations in place and weed out any criminal elements that may be entangled within them. But more importantly, it will protect thousands of citizens from being sent to jail unnecessarily and preserve their lives, which would have been destroyed as a result,” he said.

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