Cabinet considering Bill to remove jail time for small quantities of marijuana

A draft Bill which seeks to remove custodial sentence for persons found with small quantities of marijuana is currently engaging Cabinet’s attention. 

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon. Mohabir Anil Nandlall made this disclosure during a press briefing on Monday. 

He said Cabinet is deliberating the quantity of marijuana that will attract the removal of custodial sentencing. 

“We made a manifesto promise that we will remove custodial sentence from small quantity of marijuana. A bill is currently before Cabinet, and the issue is, what is under review is the quantum.”

The Attorney General, however, explained that the possession constitutes a criminal offence but, “it will not carry custodial sentence as a penalty.” 

When asked about the quantity up for consideration, Minister Nandlall said that Cabinet is being guided by the statistics provided by the Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels on the number of inmates incarcerated for marijuana possession. 

The Government is also seeking guidance from similar legislative measures already implemented in the Caribbean. 

I would not want to preempt Cabinet’s deliberation, but all these factors are currently being taken into account,” the AG said.

Meanwhile, Director Samuels has said that while people have been calling for the decriminalisation of small quantities of marijuana, there is a misconception about the numbers incarcerated for small amounts. 

“Only recently, a request was made for information as it related to persons who are charged for various quantity of marijuana. The smallest quantity we have someone in custody for was 4.5 grams. After that, the next smallest quantity was 27.4 grams,” Samuels explained.

He added, “It, therefore, means that the belief that they are hundreds of prisoners languishing in prison for possession of 5 grams or less marijuana is absolutely a myth.”

Director Samuels also reported that steps were taken to ensure persons who have been arrested for a “spliff’ are not to sent into the prison system especially in light of the prisons’ diminished capacity and the Covid-19 pandemic.