After mounting pressure from stakeholders, the Opposition and even parties within the coalition Government, the Administration will be looking to pass legislation which will see the removal of custodial sentences for the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
This is according to President David Granger on Friday during his third press engagement since APNU/AFC took office in 2015.
“We have a long legislative agenda and we have taken a decision in principle that custodial sentences for the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use would be legally abolished but after the National Assembly comes off its recess, you could look forward to that legislation being passed. It is already a decision which was agreed within the cabinet and we have no difficulty implementing it,” he asserted.
Back in May, the Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo had pressed his support towards the call for the decriminalization of small quantities of marijuana in Guyana.
“We can’t continue to send somebody, a young person or even an older person to jail for less than a quarter ounce of marijuana. A quarter ounce of marijuana for three years when we have people who are traffickers and we have people that have produced or [are] growing large quantities of marijuana and because they have money they get off from the system,” the PPP General Secretary told media operatives.
However, Jagdeo asserted that he does not believe persons who are found with the illegal substance in their possession – small amounts or not- should go about unpunished either.
“I’m not in favor of them going scot-free. Let us find another [way] of sentencing. Sentence them to community work, sentence them to rehabilitation. Let them go in and spend a month in rehabilitation because the mothers and brothers and sisters and fathers who are doing this, you don’t want them locked away. Let us sentence them to rehabilitation. A month of rehab you have to go in for to say ‘stop smoking the marijuana’. They can go and get help,” he explained.
The former President further said that he does not believe that the decriminalizing of small quantities of marijuana is as contentious as the “death penalty” and as such, is certain that every Guyanese family would prefer for the custodial sentences to be removed for the small crime.
“This cuts across politics. You have young people in PPP and PNC families who are caught with marijuana. Young kids. It’s not a political issue,” Jagdeo maintained while outlining that his support however does not stretch to the complete legalization of marijuana.
“I’m not supporting the legalization of marijuana- growing marijuana, trading marijuana, selling marijuana in Guyana. You go to jail for that sort of thing. That’s our law. I’m not supporting it. Let’s be clear about that one,” he asserted.
Prior to this, the AFC –a party within the coalition Government- expressed its “outrage” and “deep concern” regarding the sentences being handed down via the judicial system for persons who are found in possession of small quantities of cannabis.
The decriminalisation/legalisation of marijuana movement is gaining much momentum worldwide, with several countries taking steps to decriminalise and legalise the drug.
In fact, a Caribbean Community (Caricom) Commission on Marijuana has made recommendation for the decriminalisation of marijuana across Member States, saying that the substance can be controlled and regulated as in the case of alcohol.
This recommendation was placed before the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caricom, which was held in Jamaica in July.
During the conference, it was recognised that Member States would need to review the report in more detail to determine action at the national level in relation to law reform models as proposed by the Commission.
In Guyana, the issue came to the fore with the sentencing of a 27-year-old father and poultry farmer, Carl Mangal earlier this year, to three years’ incarceration for the possession of eight grams of marijuana.