Proposed changes to ganja lawThe Coalition Government is now urging Magistrates to take notice of the proposed changes to the ganja law when imposing sentences in such matters.Though the Bill is still in its preparatory stage, Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon on Thursday said that since Government’s decision on the matter is clear, that is that custodial sentences for persons found with 30 grams or below of marijuana cannot be incarcerated, all Magistrates in Guyana should take note.“But in the interim, since it is clear what Government’s position is on this matter, I believe that there is some High Court ruling which says that Magistrates can take notice of situations like this and to exercise that discretion even now before the law becomes put into place so that it affects everybody. So I believe that it is something which our judiciary can take notice of, we are not saying that they have to do it but they can take notice of it and so the guidelines which they used for sentencing that this can be taken into consideration and the fact that the law is moving” Harmon said.According to Harmon, since Guyana’s prisons are filled with people being penalized for petty possession offenses, the National Assembly is seeking to have the new Bill read as quickly as possible.“In the present system under the Anti-Narcotics and Psychotropic substances act, a magistrate does not have a discretion, once you are found guilty, they have to sentence you and so this is why many of our prisons are piled up with young men who could have been doing something a bit more beneficial to society but they are piled up in there because of this. So we are hoping to have this matter dealt with in the National Assembly as quickly as possible…” Harmon assured.The existing Narcotic Drugs Act of 1988, which criminalizes marijuana use, does not have discretion when dealing with matters above a certain level. It mandates a three-year jail sentence for persons caught with the substance.Over the past few months however, several groups including politicians have called for the removal of custodial sentencing for small amounts of marijuana.This had stemmed from the sentencing of a 27-year-old man to three years for having eight grams of cannabis in his possession.The AFC had called on all legislators to move with alacrity in upgrading the laws of Guyana to ensure that custodial sentences for small quantities of marijuana are removed from the books in their entirety.Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had also rallied around this proposal but maintained that he is not in favour of the legalisation of marijuana for commercial purposes.Jagdeo is however now slamming contending that the move – at this point – is in breach of the Constitution and the Caribbean Chief Justice (CCJ) ruling.According to the CCJ, the government should be in caretaker mode, since it was defeated by a no-confidence motion last year.At his press conference held on Thursday, Jagdeo, insisted that an illegal cabinet cannot approve the removal of custodial sentences for small amounts of marijuana.“We made it clear at the beginning, we said that the PPP would allow a conscience vote on the matter, we put it in our 2015 manifesto…we have been urging them, they had a bill from 2015 in Parliament and we are now in 2019, and they didn’t find time to discuss any of it and to bring it forward but they find time to increase their salaries and perks by 50-100% but now we are approaching elections suddenly marijuana become decriminalized” Jagdeo pointed.The Opposition has already condemned this move, saying that it is illegal and an attempt to mislead the public.Furthermore, the Opposition noted that the Coalition had four years to address the issue of removing custodial sentences for possession of small quantities of marijuana but failed to do so.
Update – The Mile 95 Road should re-open at 5:30pm. The RCMP would like to thank the motoring public for their patienceThe Fort St. John RCMP are currently en route to a two vehicle accident on the Mile 95 road.There are reports of an accident invovling a loaded tanker truck and a low bed truck at around kilometre 20 on the Mile 95 road. The accident occurred on a bridge near that location and is currently blocking traffic. At this time there are no reports of any injuries.- Advertisement -The RCMP will notify the public when the road is re-opened.