Work begins on removing custodial sentences for small amounts of ganja

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Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall

A Parliamentary Special Select Committee has commenced work to review the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) (Amendment) Bill, which is seeking to remove custodial sentences for persons in possession of marijuana weighing 30 grams and less.

Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlalll, who is the Chairman of the Special Select Committee, said they meet on Tuesday to rollout the work programme for this year.

As a result, a decision was taken to invite stakeholders to make submissions on the proposed amendments to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act.
“We decided that we will invite, by public advertisements or by public notices, members of public to make their submissions in writing to Committee and timeframes will be set out in those public notices,” the Attorney General explained.

“And, at the next meeting, providing that we receive the requested submissions, those submissions would be reviewed and then the Committee would determine whether we would like to hear oral presentations from any of those who chose to submit in writing. And if, for example, an important stakeholder organisations may have omitted to make any submissions in writing, we will consider writing to that stakeholder organisation to ensure that those organisations have an input. So, work has begun in that committee…” Nandlall added.

Last January, the PPP/C Government tabled the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) (Amendment) Bill. The amendments to the law are meant to reduce the burden on the justice system, including overcrowding the prisons as well as keeping families together and rebuild communities affected by the incarceration of persons, especially youth.

Currently, possession of 15 grams or more could attract a trafficking charge with a prison sentence of three to five years, and a fine of no less than $30,000 or three times the market value of the drug.

“If a person is found with zero to 15 grams, then the Bill proposes counselling, and if it is from 15 to 30 grams then the Bill proposes community work. So, persons will no longer be sent to jail for possession of those quantities of narcotics,” Nandlall reminded.

“We are delivering on our promise. The APNU/AFC made a similar promise. They even brought a Bill to the National Assembly which they killed themselves; they never brought it forward… I just want to pause there to show the difference between the two political parties. We are delivering on our promise,” he emphasised.