August 3, 2016 By

Decriminalising marijuana

Political activist, D David Hinds has come out to support the new Narcotics Drug and Psychotropic Substances (Control) (Amendment) Bill 2015, arguing that young people should not be sent to prison for a few spliffs of marijuana.David-Hinds - Copy

The Marijuana Bill has been on Parliament’s order paper for a while now but to date, there has been no reading.

The Bill – which was drafted by Attorneys Nigel Hughes and Mark Waldron following the imprisonment of national football coach Vibert Butts for possession of marijuana – was expected to be tabled by Member of Parliament Michael Carrington last December.

The Bill which is divided into three sections: Amendment of Section 4 of the Principal Act, the Amendment of Section 5 of the Principal Act, and the Amendment of Section 12 of the Principle Act, is expected to eliminate the mandatory imprisonment of persons who have been accused of having in their possession relatively small amounts of cannabis, and cannabis resin while increasing the quantity which will constitute trafficking in cannabis or cannabis resin to one thousand grams.

The legislation is instituted on the experience of several Guyanese, mainly youths who have been imprisoned for small amounts of cannabis or cannabis resin and who as a result of their incarceration, have been unnecessarily economically and socially disadvantaged.

Dr Hinds stated that sending someone to jail for possessions of small amounts of marijuana is “ridiculous” and should be removed from the law books.

“As a matter of justice I don’t not think you should criminalise entire communities for two spliffs of marijuana… I think it is unjust and I am supporting the legislation,” he said, adding that while the use of the drug does lead to dysfunction and potentially escalate to criminal activity, the incarceration of youths is not the way to go.

“There should be a balance between recreational use of marijuana and the maintenance of law and order,” he noted, adding that the piece of legislation should be tabled and passed as soon as possible.

Public Health Minister, Dr George Norton, had previously stated that more in-depth consideration must be given to the Bill along with widespread consultation. He fears the legalisation of marijuana smoking will fly in the face of the anti-tobacco legislation – which is also yet to the tabled and has attracted much controversy within the health sector and the tobacco industry.

The explanatory memorandum of the legislation stated that the social intercourse and interaction afforded by the incarceration has resulted in regrettable contamination and education of many young persons in criminal behaviour and anti social tendencies.