Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo has strong feelings against the sentencing of people who are found to be in possession of small quantities of marijuana. The politician said that Guyana simply cannot continue to allow good citizens to serve time amongst hardened criminals for such a frivolous crime.
The former President said this at his most recent press conference held at his Church Street Office.
He said that he is willing to look any Guyanese in his or her face and say “We cannot send a person to jail for less than a quarter ounce of marijuana for three years when we have traffickers and those producing large quantities of marijuana and just because they have money they get off from the system.”
Jagdeo sought to make it clear that he is not in favor of those who are found with small quantities going scotch free. He said, “They can be sentenced to community work or rehab. Those people don’t need to be locked up, they need rehabilitation.”
Jagdeo continued, “They can go get help, I am sure every family wants that. But clogging up jails with people who commit this crime is not wise.”
Jagdeo said that it makes no sense sending a teenager, who has been a victim of peer pressure, to jail for years just for being in possession of a small amount of marijuana.
The politician questioned, “Which family would want that, whether Christian, Hindu or Muslim?”
He said that an alternative would be to subject the persons caught with the substance to community service. “Let them go clean the school compounds.”
Jagdeo said that while he feels strongly about changing the laws that mandate a minimum of three years for possession of small amounts of marijuana, he will not force his view on that matter upon the People’s Progressive Party Members of Parliament.
Jagdeo said, “I will allow a conscience vote, I will vote in favor of the amendment but I will allow a conscience on the part of our Members of Parliament.”
Jagdeo said that the coalition government should do the same.
He said that he is aware that some PPP/C parliamentary might decide to vote against changing the laws but he still thinks it is best to do a conscience vote be. “We had this issue before like with the abortion bill, there are some issues like these that cut across politics.”
Jagdeo sought to make it very clear that is by no means supporting the legalization of marijuana. “I am not supporting legalization, growing, trading or selling in Guyana; you go to jail for that.”
The politician said he is aware that there is a division in government as the PNCR-controlled APNU wants to leave the law as it is while, AFC wants an amendment.
“I think that this public consultation is one way of delaying that and taking them out of their bind, because now they have a contradiction in their camp. (Attorney General Basil) Williams and (President David) Granger don’t want to (change the law) but the AFC members of government are being pressured by their party to do it,” said Jagdeo.