Sunday 15 December, 2019

Weed decriminalisation law in Parliament on Friday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at a PNM meeting in La Horquetta November 21, 2019. Photo via Facebook, Dr Keith Rowley.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at a PNM meeting in La Horquetta November 21, 2019. Photo via Facebook, Dr Keith Rowley.

The long-awaited legislation to address the decriminalisation of marijuana will be brought to Parliament on Friday.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi made the announcement at a People’s National Movement (PNM) in La Horquetta on Thursday night.

He revealed that Cabinet approved two pieces of law to be laid in the Parliament when it met earlier in the day - an Ammendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act and The Cannabis Control Authority Bill.

The new laws will allow for the following:

1. No charge or criminal offence for persons who are in possession of 30 grammes or less of marijuana

2. If you are in possession of between 30 and 60 grammes a police officer can issue a ticket for a fixed penalty. Once you pay the fixed penalty there will be no record, conviction and no jail time.

3. If you cannot pay the fixed penalty you will be subject to a maximum fine of $50,000. If you cannot pay this fine you will sentenced in the first instance to 30 hours of community service.

4. If you have a pending charge for less than 60 grammes you can apply to have the case discharged. If you have a previous conviction for less than 60 grammes you can have it removed from your record.

The Attorney General presented figures showing that the courts were bogged down by cases of marijuana possession.

He noted that for the period 2007 to 2018, there were 84,668 matters for possession of marijuana in the courts.

For 2018 alone 8,316 people came before the magistrate's court for possession of marijuana.

Removing these cases, he said, will free up the courts to deal with serious crime.

“Marijuana is classified as a dangerous drug, under the dangerous drug act, it has a law and a law to regulate it and marijuana has been subject to this Dangerous Drug Act, where possession of marijuana means you are in possession of a dangerous drug and if you are in possession of a dangerous drug, if a policeman finds you with that, you can find yourself on a charge,” he said.

“We want to treat with this dangerous drug thing so the magistrate and court could focus on rape, aggravation, murder whatever serious crimes,” Al-Rawi said.

During the period 2010-2018, the Attorney General said there were 3429 people who were incarcerated for marijuana because they cannot afford bail.

Al-Rawi said this came at great cost to the state, as the average cost of keeping a prisoner in custody is between $15,000 and $20,000 per month.

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