Govt. moves to the Select Committee as the Opposition marijuana Bill is thrown out
– counseling, community service offered
– reoffending and tackling prison overcrowding
Kaieteur News – A majority vote by the People’s Party / Civic Progressive Party government (PPP / C) led to an Reform Bill proposed by Opposition Member Sherod Duncan to be thrown out of the National Assembly.
In the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) (Amendment) Bill, the Opposition had anticipated criminalizing 15 grams of marijuana to a substantial 500 grams, and had also called for the release of those individuals who are currently in jail behind bars under that “proposed legal amount. ”
However, due to several errors in the Bill, which also conflicted with current law, the PPP / C government questioned a proposal, and ultimately voted against it. However, the government did support its own Bill, entitled the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) (Amendment) Bill 2020. In making his submission, the Attorney General and Minister for Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall noted, that the opposition- The proposed Bill failed to amend or specify how it would allow the use to be legal. To this, the AG said, “So you can have it, but you can’t smoke it or breathe it or vape it.”
Meanwhile, Education Minister Priya Manickchand labeled the Bill as “sacred gangsterism,” as she recalled that the Bill introduced by Duncan was identical to one drafted by Attorneys-at-law , Nigel Hughes, and Mark Waldron. The only difference, the Education Minister said, was that the Bill proposed by Hughes and Waldron asked for the removal of jail time for people found with 200 grams of marijuana while this Bill increased that ceiling to 500 grams.
He added that the Bill was a “lazy attempt at a draft,” and the Opposition made “no attempt whatsoever to examine and interrogate the matter in seeking a resolution for Guyanese.”
In the meantime, the government Bill passed now goes to the Special Committee for further consideration and consultation. Notably, the Bill will see people with 15 grams of cannabis or less sentenced to counseling.
“Under the new subsection (2A) possession of a quantity of cannabis or any substance thought to be cannabis not to exceed fifteen grams can be punished by compulsory counseling for a period to be determined by the counselor,” the bill reads.
Currently, possession of 15 grams or less could attract a trading charge with a jail sentence of three to five years, and a fine of not less than $ 30,000. The Bill makes the possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis an offense of simple possession.
An amount over 15 grams, but no more than 30 grams, will attract community service. This includes employment in public works under the Extra-mural Works Act for a maximum of six months.
“Public works are defined by section 2 of the Extra-mural Works Regulations, Reg. 8 of 1998, to include any works on State or Government land or any State-owned, rented or leased property of the State or with the permission of a local government authority, on any land or any other property owned, rented or leased. i, the local government authority. ”
The Bill also increases the amount of cannabis that would automatically attract a human trafficking charge from 15 grams to more than 30 grams.
It also removes the fine and the prison term for smoking, breathing, smelling, or otherwise using cannabis or for being found in a place used for that purpose, or being the owner, occupier, or control any place used for the preparation of cannabis for that purpose.
However, while the clause removes the fine and jail time for smoking cannabis in places where cigarette smoking is also prohibited, it imposes a $ 10,000 fine for a first offense and a $ 20,000 penalty for a second offenses and subsequent offenses.
The Bill also provides for those cases where an offender may refuse to consent or breach a mandatory counseling or community service order. The amended Act would give the court discretion to order the offender to pay a fine of $ 250,000 where he sees fit.
The purpose of these amendments is to reduce the burden on the justice system, and also to address issues such as prison recidivism and overcrowding. Not only would this save the State money, but it would also help keep families together and rebuild affected communities disadvantaged by imprisonment of people, especially youth.