After extensive discussions and reviews, Cabinet has approved a proposal to remove custodial sentences for persons found to be in possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana. This was according to a released issued by the Ministry of Presidency on Tuesday.
However, the release added that narcotics possession remains an offence but persons will not be sentenced to terms of imprisonment as obtained in the past.
This is the first of several steps that government intends to take as it considers the recently submitted Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Report on the usages of marijuana, and in particular, usages by our Rastafarian brothers and sisters who require it for use in their worship and sacrament.
Over the past few months several groups including politicians have called for the removal of custodial sentencing for small amounts of marijuana. This had stemmed from the sentencing of a 27-year-old man to three years for having eight grams of cannabis in his possession.
The AFC had called on all legislators to move with alacrity in upgrading the laws of Guyana to ensure that custodial sentences for small quantities of marijuana are removed from the books in their entirety.
The Party recalled that their Member of Parliament, Michael Carrington, in 2015, brought a bill to the National Assembly for debate but it has since been languishing on the order paper, being deferred time and time again.
In addition, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has thrown his support for custodial sentences for small quantities of marijuana to be removed but maintained that he is not in favour of the legalisation of marijuana for commercial purposes.
He reminded that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has made a commitment to support a ‘conscience vote’ should the matter come up for a vote in the National Assembly.
The former President had stated that he is not opposed to having the offenders face some penalty, but he would recommend alternative or non-custodial sentencing such as: community work and rehabilitation.