St Vincent hops onto ganja train

St Vincent hops onto ganja train

Possession of two ounces or less of marijuana now a ticketable offence

Saturday, July 27, 2019

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KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC — The St Vincent and the Grenadines Parliament has amended legislation that would make smoking two ounces (56 grammes) or less of marijuana a ticketable offence, if the offender admits to the crime.

Under the new law, a person who is in possession of up to two ounces of marijuana cannot be arrested, cannot be jailed, and would not get a criminal record as a result.

The law also makes it legal for persons to use the drug in their home or at places of Rastafarian worship. However, it also makes an offence, the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana carrying a maximum penalty of EC$500.

But Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said this penalty doesn't have to be imposed because the law states that there is a way in which the liability can be discharged, adding that this is an important point because the international convention says possession of marijuana is an offence

He said in order for a person who is accused of being in possession of two ounces or less of marijuana to appear in court, they have to be summoned.

Gonsalves told legislators on Thursday that if a police officer meets someone with two ounces of cannabis or less, and the person admits to possession, the officer would have to give that person a card containing health and education information about the use of marijuana.

“The health information here is where you can get counselling. And the policeman must draw to your attention, if you are under 18, or if it appears reasonable to him that you are dependent on the cannabis, they have to point out specifically to you where you can get counselling,” Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves said that if the person denies possession of marijuana, he or she will be given a summons and if the substance, after scientific testing, is proven to be cannabis, the magistrate would deal with the person.

“But I would think that 99.99 per cent of those will tell the police, 'Yes, is mine own. Is weed',” Gonsalves said, adding that a national campaign will be instituted beyond what exists.

Opposition Leader Dr Godwin Friday said there were contradictions in changes to the legislation, noting that to benefit from the new provisions persons would actually commit other offences.

He said he was not sure why the Government was being “so timid” with the law, noting that in Antigua and Barbuda, for example, it is legal for a person to grow up to four marijuana plants on private premises.

“And we have made a proposal to say similar things should be done here,” he told Parliament, adding that in not making such a provision, a problem is created for residents of St Vincent and the Grenadines, where smoking marijuana in one's home would become legal if the act is passed into law.

“Here is the problem, Mr Speaker: We are saying it is possible for someone to have in his possession two ounces or less of cannabis. But where will the person get it from? They have to get it from an illegal trafficker, as it is now, if he can't grow it himself.

“… So now you have a regime that is saying you are making it more permissible for persons to smoke in a public place or to possess up to 15 grammes but they have to buy it from somebody who produces it illegally.

“So my proposal, Mr Speaker, is if you are going to do it, make it a complete circle. If you are doing to have small possession, have small quantities that you grow yourself so, therefore, you don't have to go and purchase it from somebody who is a trafficker and encourage, in a sense, by this legislation, the use and trafficking at the same time.”

Friday said he did not see why his proposed amendment is so complicated, adding that this is something he believes will reduce incidences of trafficking, which are still and should remain illegal

Friday, an attorney, said he prefers when legislation speaks clearly about its intention.

Earlier, Gonsalves said that his Government has created in the new law an offence called smoking in a public place, noting that public places do not include one's home and a place of Rastafarian worship.

He noted that a judge in St Kitts & Nevis recently ruled that to criminalise the smoking of marijuana in one's home contravenes the privacy provision of the constitution.

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