The conviction of a 27-year old father of three, for possession of eight grams of marijuana on Monday, will be challenged by Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes, even as the Alliance for Change (AFC) has reiterated its call for the act to be decriminalized.
Hughes confirmed on Wednesday that he will be challenging the decision which handed poultry farmer Carl Mangal, a three year jail sentence after he pleaded guilty to being in possession of marijuana.
Meanwhile, the AFC, which forms part of the government, expressed its “outrage and deep concern” over the sentencing.
The party offered that these “custodial sentences” serve, in large measure, to criminalize young people, particularly young men who have been caught with small quantities of marijuana – an offence which it described as a mere error in judgment and not representative of criminal behavior.
As such, it renewed its call for legislators to “move with alacrity” in upgrading the laws of Guyana to ensure those custodial sentences are struck down from the law.
The party was keen to note though that it is not questioning the decision of the magistrate, since she was constrained by the law.
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act states that: “Any person who has in his possession any narcotic, or any substance represented or held out by him to be narcotic, shall be liable – in respect of any narcotic… on a summary conviction, to fine of not less than thirty thousand dollars, together with imprisonment for not less than three years nor more than five years…”
In 2015, AFC Member of Parliament (MP) Michael Carrington presented a bill to the National Assembly which seeks to remove the sentencing for said act from the existing law. However, the bill is yet to be debated since it has been deferred several times.
But according to the AFC, “the time to act is now.”
“We must no longer sit idly by and allow our young men and women to be sentenced to several years of jail time alongside hardened criminals, murderers and rapists. We will not be found complicit in destroying the lives of our young people and wounding our society rather than acting to heal it” the party shared.
To support its efforts, the party announced that it will commence plans to host a national symposium on the issue, and provide stakeholders with the opportunity to deliberate and exchange views on the matter.