Even before the APNU+AFC Administration’s recent proposal to remove custodial sentences for the possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana becomes law, the Judiciary can take note of this and exercise discretion when addressing such cases.

This was noted at a post-Cabinet press conference that was held today by Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency Joseph Harmon. There, Harmon explained that what the government’s proposal is seeking to do is decriminalise the possession of small amounts of marijuana while providing alternative forms of punishment.

The Director-General said, “In the present system, under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act, magistrates do not have discretion. Once you are found guilty, they have to sentence you and this is one of the reasons why our prisons are tied up with young men who could have been doing something a little more beneficial for the society…We are hoping to have it passed in the National Assembly as quickly as possible.”

Harmon said that in the interim, given that the government’s position on this subject is clear and public, there is a High Court ruling which states that magistrates can take notice of situations like this and so exercise discretion in this regard, even before the proposal becomes law.

He said, “…I believe it is something which the judiciary can take notice of. They don’t have to but they can and, the guidelines they use for sentencing, this can be taken into consideration.”

The Director-General did not specifically state how soon this matter can make it to the National Assembly for passage. He said that it is still going through a process.

In the meantime, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is contending that the APNU+AFC party cannot make any such pronouncements since its governmental status became illegal following the ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that the Opposition’s No-Confidence Motion was successfully passed on December 21, 2018.


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