PACT plans to decriminalise ganja

| 16/07/2021 | 207 Comments
Cayman News Service
Premier Wayne Panton delivers the final speech in the SPS debate on Thursday

(CNS): Premier Wayne Panton has announced plans to decriminalise ganja to help address one of the major barriers to employment for many young Caymanians. The policy proposal was one of several revealed Thursday in a detailed address by Panton that outlined the agenda proposed by the PACT Government to directly improve the lives of ordinary people, moving Cayman away for the historic trickle-down policies of previous governments that favoured business. The decriminalisation of ganja, the premier said, has been shown in other countries to be an effective tool and has not proven to increase criminal activity.

Panton explained that his government wants to eradicate the concept of the working poor and reduce the number of people unfairly classed as unemployable, “and to do that all the barriers and obstacles to employment, especially entry level employment, need to be removed”, he said.

“An immediate step is to reduce discrimination against young people in education and employment through decriminalisation of marijuana,” Panton said. “Far too many of our young people suffer unduly harsh punishments and have their futures permanently blighted by what are minimal misdemeanors. In far too many cases the punishment far outweighs the crime. As has been shown to good effect in Canada, the United Kingdom and several states in the USA, decriminalisation is an effective tool and has not proven to increase criminal activity.”

The issue was raised on many candidates’ platforms during the election campaign and few of those now elected to office on the election trail opposed this first step in creating a less draconian environment regarding ganja. While Cayman made the progressive step in 2016 to change the law to allow doctors to prescribe medicinal marijuana, with the exception of expunging criminal records for old ganja convictions, no more steps have been taken since then to address the crime of consumption, despite popular support for a more liberal approach to use and personal possession of weed.

This was not the only policy outlined by Panton that will have the potential to make a real and direct difference to people’s lives, as he wrapped up the debate on the Strategic Policy Statement and responded to the opposition leader’s criticisms of PACT.

He committed to “specifically and fully recognise healthcare as a basic human right” here, adding that no citizen should go without necessary medical care because they cannot afford it. “We will revamp and expand CINICO services to extend access to healthcare to more Caymanians, provide free healthcare for children and the elderly, and reform existing criteria to access free healthcare,” he added. Panton also outlined additional policies to address mental health issues.

Having already revealed plans on Wednesday for free school meals, he said government was going to fund homework centres at public schools, early-morning supervision of students at all schools and robust after-school programmes. The premier also revealed plans to integrate Caymanians and non-Caymanians within the public school system. He also said that government would offer financial assistance to help working families offset the costs of daycare services, and that a daycare pilot programme at the Government Administration Building was about to be rolled out.

He said that PACT would roll out cultural sensitivity training and support to all front-line police officers, and work on reducing the causes of crime in the community through effective anti-gang strategies and support for vulnerable young people, with more investment in rehabilitation to assist young offenders before they become long-term criminals.

“We aim to help fix what is broken in our society and ultimately make our communities safer,” the premier said.

Panton unveiled a multitude of policies that could have a major impact on ordinary people, including plans to address the critical issue of affordable homes, noting that the dream of home ownership has slipped away for many because of Cayman’s rising property costs.

“Many are asking how, in just a few generations, property costs have so far outpaced the middle-income Caymanian’s earnings. When you feel like you’re not a part of your country’s success, like you’ve been excluded from owning a piece of the pie, how are you going to feel invested in its growth and success? Too often our own people are feeling as if they’ve been left out and left behind.”

In addition to investing more in the existing government-guaranteed home-assisted mortgages, the government will use the Cayman Islands Development Bank to offer low cost loans. Stamp duty on land for Caymanians will also be cut.

A major platform focus for PACT, alongside building climate resilience, is social justice in the workplace. Panton said Caymanian discrimination is rampant in the labour market, as he outlined the long-held distorted beliefs and stereotypes regarding local workers.

“This government will not further it. We will not tolerate it. We are going to smash each and every one of those stereotypes and provide the opportunities that our people deserve in their own land,” he said. “We will maximise Caymanian employment. We will enforce the laws and regulations surrounding work permits.”

Using a data-driven and robust compliance approach and changes to existing labour laws and regulations, the aim is to allow WORC to match work permit applications to unemployed Caymanians and new graduates. To reward good employers, PACT will implement the accreditation system, but he said it will also increase work permit fees in areas where Caymanian labour is readily available and increase administrative fines for illegal employment practices. “We will also name and shame companies that consistently engage in poor labour practices,” he warned.

The permanent residency point system will be reviewed to address the impact on the property market, and the preference it gives to certain demographics, which he said had “unalterably skewed the composition of our local population”.

He added, “We have also seen how grants of new permanent residents have been used to block the employment and advancement of similarly qualified Caymanians. This was never the intended goal of a permanent residency system and necessitates a thorough review to ensure that we are not putting Caymanians at a disadvantage when we grant permanent resident status. Under this umbrella, we will both reform the rollover policy and provide initiatives to address under-employment of Caymanians.”

The premier also committed to generally improving work-life balance with family leave policies, including improved maternity and paternity rights in line with international standards. “We will promote diversity in the workplace and introduce a national wellness programme that incentivises employers and encourages employees to strike a better work-life balance,” he said.

“To ensure equity and remove discrimination, we will implement national anti-bullying and sexual harassment policies and enact stronger laws to protect the disabled, elderly and other vulnerable groups.”

The minimum wage will be increased. Given that Cayman has often been listed as one of the world’s most expensive places to live, earnings are being outpaced by the cost of living. “While this may not be a popular move among the business community, it must be done and we will have to gradually enhance the current minimum wage to become a realistic livable wage,” the premier added.

See Thursday’s full speech in the CNS Library.

Watch the delivery on CIGTV below:

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Category: Policy, Politics

Comments (207)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Baby steps so that people can be educated before they take the next step.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Users find it difficult to admit the darker effects of using drugs….. And yes, ganja is actually a drug.

    • Anonymous says:

      Geerzum. Pact why not legalize it and done. What you have done is created a bigger demand with price increases now and the big man dem will surely increase the supply . Fine so if you legalize it the prices will drop and it won’t make economic sense to the suppliers the big fish dem. Sene

  3. Anonymous says:

    Nice guesture of our Govt to provide free health care to elderly who deserve.They r our forefathrrs. They sacrificed for what we r enjoing.These people grew up without power and no cars. Lived with mosquitoes. Those of 65 and above may be around 3000 of whom pensioneers ,veterans and indigents(not a pleasant term)
    Are already getting free health. Few remaining who were in private sector now difficult to get good insurance even CINICo cover costs a lot. We dont want them to sell their house for a bypass.Currently for such there is some cover through HSA output. So Govt may review all such individuals and provide free health care at HSA and pay directly to HSA rather paying premiums to CINICO thus save admin costs for passing money to CINICo from govt and HSA paid from CINICO. Thx to PACT govt for a wonderful guesture.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Very good move for free child health care as we r preparing for healthy has become a burdeon for single employed mothers for insurance as it is compulsory and small companies provide 50percent to employee only. Currently children do get free health care at HSA for uninsured covered by ouputs. If we take all these children to CINICo they charge a large premium to Govt. Pl Premier to review the premium cost and payment to HSA as userfee so that all admin costs of CINICo can be saved

  5. Anonymous says:

    Problem is that the same stoners will also be drinking.

    • Anonymous says:

      Now that same sex relationships are recognized, it makes sense to also decriminalize Weed….Because It says in the Bible that “if two men shall lie together, they shall be stoned.”

    • Anonymous says:

      Problem is that the daily fast food consumers will also be smoking tobacco.

      Dumb point you tryna make there

    • Anonymous says:

      Problem is that the same wine drinkers will also be taking OTC sleeping tablets

      True story – a judge here did this and ran off the road. What’s your point? Totally legal already.

  6. Truth says:

    About time. I would have never thought Caymanians could pass any thing that makes sense to the outside world. What’s next? Gender equality? No taxation without representation? Gay people working in government? No honorific by law unless earned? It’s a slippery slope. How will Caymanians differentiate themselves from everyone else now?

    • Anonymous says:

      We have had gender equality legislation for the past 10 years. The Cayman Islands Government does not discriminate against gay people. I work with several such persons. We have no direct tax so why quote Americanisms in our context? Educate yourself.

    • Anonymous says:

      We have nothing that makes sense to the outside world, yet the outside world is beating down Cayman’s doors to get in. Funny how that works.

      Be better, not bitter, friend.

    • Anonymous says:

      How do you figure decriminalisation but not legalisation makes sense to anyone?

    • Anonymous says:

      Until CNS adopts a sarcasm font you are wasting your time.

  7. Anonymous says:

    lol. We are following United States straight to hell. Woke idiotic government. They are going to be so broke real soon. I must say this government has me scared to death and unfortunately that bad feeling in the pit of my stomach is never wrong.

  8. Anonymous says:

    we don’t exactly see big neon signs on the road saying: “Don’t Smoke and Drive.”

    Drinking is a problem – we even have liquor sales on Sundays now (which I don’t mind) but the contradiction is quite apparent.

    People here are so easily stirred up and shun progressive policy. How many stoners do you think drive at breakneck speeds vs drinkers?

    You know, stoners voluntarily drive at 25mph and even that feels too fast…

    • Anonymous says:

      Drugs affect the activity of one’s mind……… Yes, even their driving.

      • D. Truth says:

        Of course drugs affect the mind! Ganja sort of numbs the mind and makes you feel like everything is fine…… but it isn’t! It feels good but your brain doesn’t work normally. Sometime it doesn’t seem to work at all. Some times I think some of our politicians must be stoned!

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