Even as Government is yet to take a definitive position on the issue of legalising and decriminalising marijuana, President Granger has stated that there is a possibility that private use of the herb would be on the cards in the coming months.
Speaking on the weekly televised programme – The Public Interest – which was aired on Friday, the Head of State pointed out that Cabinet is awaiting advice and recommendations from the Ministries of Public Health and Public Security on how to move ahead with the issue as was previously done with tobacco.
However, he noted that steps are being taken to consider making the use of marijuana legal: “I would say, even running the risk of talking out of school, that it is likely that the private use of marijuana would be given consideration in months to come.”
But as it relates to the issue of decriminalising the use of marijuana, the Head of State explained that while trafficking is not likely to be removed from the law books in the near future, but certainly the use of marijuana is beginning to be decriminalised.
“Decriminalisation is something else and that is not on the cards presently but there is a possibility that when the matter comes before us, we would want to have a good debate on whether a person should be sent to jail given custodial sentence for being in possession of such a small quantity of marijuana that it is clear it is for personal use and not for trafficking,” Granger noted.
Nevertheless, the President maintained that Cabinet is still in discussions and a definitive answer will not be given until it has a chance to look at the recommendations, and the matter goes to the National Assembly.
In May, the Guyanese Head of State speaking on the issue had stated that such reforms are not a current concern of the Government and on a more personal note declared that he will not subscribe to the usage of marijuana.
“This is not something that is a preoccupation of the Administration at the present time… I would not counsel the use of marijuana by young people or anybody,” he had posited. However, on another occasion he had noted that the focus should be on advocating for noncustodial sentences – which is an initiative currently being explored by the judicial and executive arms of Government.
The decriminalisation/legalisation of marijuana is gaining momentum worldwide and while other countries have taken steps to decriminalise and legalise the drug, the local debate on the issue went as far as the drafting of a “Ganja Bill”, which was to be tabled in the National Assembly earlier in January but this was indefinitely postponed.
Given that the overcrowding at the prison is said to be largely contributed by those on remand or incarcerated for possession of small amounts of marijuana, critics have argued that it would be in the best interest to introduce the decriminalisation legislation to deal with that problem.