‘Caretaker’ Govt announces plans to push ahead with changes to ganja legislation

The Cabinet ministers

Although the Government should be in “caretaker” mode in keeping with the Constitution, the Alliance For Change (AFC) faction of the coalition has announced plans to go to Parliament to approve changes to several pieces of legislation before the end of the year.

AFC Chairman and former Speaker of the National Assembly, Raphael Trotman has declared that the Government would be going to Parliament soon to approve changes to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Act, to ensure persons caught with small amounts of marijuana in their possession would not be jailed.

This is the latest in a series of defiant moves by the coalition Administration against a Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling.

“We expect that we will have sittings of the National Assembly before it is dissolved and it is our intention to have this Bill passed into law. That is, that you are entitled to have up to 30 grams which is equivalent to roughly one ounce without being penalised with an incarceration or a custodial sentence as it is normally termed. Possession will remain an offence; however, it will not lead to you going to jail and we have looked at just a mere fine and perhaps community service or something of that nature,” he told the media during an AFC press briefing on Thursday.

The CCJ ruling gives effect to Article 161 of the Constitution of Guyana which stipulates that Cabinet should have already resigned, Parliament been dissolved and elections forthcoming.

Cabinet recently approved a proposal to change the law to allow persons with small amounts of marijuana to be given alternative sentencing, instead of going to jail.

Meanwhile, even as the AFC wants to go to Parliament soon, Trotman said his party expected that elections will and should be held before the end of 2019.

“The Constitution is preserved despite the ruling of the Court, that it is only the President of Guyana that can issue a proclamation announcing an election and naming a date for those elections. There are certain consequential things that would be done. Parliament would have to be dissolved…”

Meanwhile, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has released its proposal for consequential orders in which it submitted that the CCJ order elections to be held by September 18, 2019 and urged the regional court to protect Guyana from constitutional abuse.

The regional court is expected to hand down its consequential orders today.