After a debate that included one Member of Parliament waving around a look-a-like marijuana spliff, The APNU+AFC piloted Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Amendment Bill was voted down today, as the Government introduced its own Bill and got that sent to a Special Select Committee.
The Opposition Bill which was taken to the House by Member of Parliament Sherod Duncan sought to increase the amount of marijuana a person would need to have in their possession for it to be considered a trafficking of drugs offense.
The Opposition wanted the amount to be increased from the current 15 grams to 500 grams.
In introducing the Bill, Mr. Duncan explained that far too many persons were languishing behind bars for small amounts of marijuana. He reminded that it was the APNU+AFC while in government that first raised the issue in the National Assembly.
But Duncan’s arguments were shot down by Government Minister Priya Manickchand who argued that the APNU+AFC should have passed the Bill while it was in Government. She described the legislation as not good enough and said the Government’s Bill should be the one which goes forward.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall told the opposition that the Government side will not pass the opposition championed bill since they had a chance to do so while they were in office but never did.
In his contribution on the issue, Opposition Member of Parliament and former Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan said while everyone may not agree with the increase in the quantum, it doesn’t mean everyone will become a criminal or would deal with marijuana.
The intention, he emphasized is to ensure that jail terms are avoided. He added that too many young people are in jail for small amounts of marijuana.
While the Government side heavily criticized the Bill, the Opposition side argued that the Bill is the closest to the recommendations coming from CARICOM and the WHO recommendations on Marijuana.
The Government Bill seeks to increase the amount of marijuana to constitute a trafficking offense from the current 15 grams to 30 grams.
The Government Bill also seeks to reduce custodial sentences for small amounts of marijuana has been sent to a Special Select Committee and is likely to be open for public consultation before it makes its way back into the National Assembly for debate. (Handel Duncan)
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