Marijuana de-penalization coming! Print E-mail
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Friday, 19 February 2016 00:00

At the end of January a white paper was presented to Cabinet for its consideration at the possibility of decriminalizing marijuana. The issue has been looked at and in preliminary fashion Cabinet has decided that amendments be made to the criminal code to deal with persons who are caught with 10 grams or less of the drug. According to Minister of National Security, who has had reservations about the entire issue, Cabinet received the paper three weeks ago. It was reviewed and sent to the Attorney General’s office for changes to the laws to accommodate the move.

While Cabinet has asked for amendments to the law, Minister Saldivar explained to the Guardian that the recommendations are not necessarily for the decriminalization of Marijuana, rather he deems it as de-penalization. In broad terms the Cabinet has recommended that anyone who has been caught with 10 grams or less be fined and no prison term be attached when found guilty of that amount. Additionally convictions of these amounts would not form part of the person’s criminal record.  

The Attorney General, Hon. Vanessa Retreage, in who’s hands the task now lies to come up with amendments to the legislation says that her office is already working on the amendments and currently the legal draftsperson is putting the amendments together. She echoed Minister Saldivar’s sentiment that it is not a decriminalization of Marijuana rather a de-penalization. She says that the amendments will be ready by the end of March and will be presented to Cabinet then.

Retreage says that the recommendations to Cabinet are sweeping and at this point in time there is no infrastructure in place to support them. Among the recommendations is for offenders to attend drug rehabilitations programs but these are currently non-existent. She added that for now the first step will be the de-penalizing of weed possession where small fines may be imposed on those caught with small quantities. The considerations at this point in time may be that the legislative changes may look at the penalties be ‘akin to a ticket’ and may also include changes in the processing of persons caught with small quantities where it may not necessary to actually detain the individual caught. All of this however is in a consideration stage as the legal draftspersons in the Attorney General’s Ministry look at all current Marijuana legislation and make the adjustments.

The process of decriminalizing marijuana started in July 2012 when the cabinet commissioned the Decriminalization of Marijuana Committee to examine the pros and cons of the decriminalization of up to 10 grams of marijuana. This Cabinet sub-committee utilized “public opinion, open discussions, debate, and literature review to come to a general consensus and to formulate recommendations”.