GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — Caribbean trade bloc leaders announced Thursday that they are creating a regional commission to analyze the possibility of legalizing marijuana.
The announcement follows a two-day summit in which Caricom members discussed a preliminary report that found decriminalizing medical marijuana could help boost the region's economy. The report was compiled by Caricom researchers.
St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said there was intense discussion at the summit about the medical use of marijuana and the decriminalization of small quantities for recreational use. He said leaders want a more comprehensive study and had concerns including the impact of marijuana use on mental health.
The commission is charged with presenting its report in early July for a Caricom summit in Antigua.
"We have obviously taken more than baby steps," Gonsalves said in a statement. "We want the issue to be addressed in a serious, mature manner."
Activists in Jamaica, St. Lucia and other islands have been pushing to legalize marijuana use.
Marijuana has been decriminalized elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere.
Uruguay recently became the first country to approve nationwide pot legalization, while the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado passed recreational laws in 2012. In addition, 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia already have medical marijuana laws.