No arbitrary legalisation of ganja, says AG

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams on Wednesday said while he is in support of non-custodial sentences for persons found in possession of small amounts of marijuana, countrywide consultation is needed on the matter.Williams was the time meeting with members of the Rastafarian community at his Carmichael Street Office.
“I think I have been an advocate for that, that certainly, possession of certain amounts should not attract custodial sentences… I thought in marginal cases considerations could be given for non-custodial sentences,” he said.
At what he described as a “listening brief”, Williams noted that he has to brief Cabinet on the matter as government is expected to be “transparent and accountable”, the duo underpinning of the consultation process.
Alliance For Change (AFC) Parliamentarian Michael Carrington intends to table an amendment to remove provisions of the Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substances Control Act of 1988 that mandates Magistrates to imprison any Guyanese who is found to be in possession of marijuana.
However, Williams made it clear that the piece of legislation Carrington spoke of was not going to be tabled at this point as procedure requires that draft legislation to be presented to and deliberated upon by Cabinet.
“That bill hasn’t come to the House under the hand of the government and Cabinet has not discussed the matter; it has not been discussed in Cabinet sub-committee which is headed by the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister is the Leader of (Government Business) in the House and he had no idea about the bill, the nature of the bill, the contents of the bill,” he told reporters.


Williams said too that the drafted legislation would serve as a catalyst in moving forward on the issue. He lauded the Rastafarian community for their presentation and noted that it educated him about what the group is calling for.
“We had a very in-depth discussion. I am very impressed by the insights that they have given me about the plight of the Rastafari people and they feel marginalised for years; they believe the time is ripe for the nation to appreciate the nature of their religion, beliefs and the importance of marijuana in their sacraments, the importance of marijuana medicinally, and the whole question of decriminalising marijuana not above 2 ounces (56 grams). I thought they wanted to decriminalise the offence of trafficking and so on but they are saying marijuana, they require it for personal use and that use shouldn’t exceed 56 grams,” stated the Attorney General.
He emphasised the need for government to discuss the matter at the level of Cabinet and committed to receiving “professional help” in conducting consultations that are necessary.
Meanwhile, Brother Reuben of the Twelve Tribes of Israel said he is pleased that Mr Williams found the time to listen to the plight of the Rastafarian community.
“We are pressing for sacramental usage of marijuana [of] at least two ounces,” he said. Brother Reuben is hopeful that Wednesday’s meeting would be the first of many and called for symposiums to be held on the subject of marijuana use.
“… I love the ganja… I was smoking since the 70s… it never make nobody mad. I went through high school and I am a geologist,” he said.
“I pray to God you are able to persuade the Commander-in-Chief and others to just look into it and ease this discriminative level that we have been going through for so long,” Brother Reuben added.
Ras Simeon Saul, President of the Guyana Rastafari Council was more vocal.
“It is a crime, and a great crime for a government to stand between a people and their religion and culture and to make laws and institutions to suffocate and strangle I and I for so long.”
Ras Saul argued that the laws against marijuana use in Guyana have to be changed because Rastafarians like all others are protected by the Constitution of Guyana.
“We are not a people that must be denied rights by a government. We are saying the laws must be changed now. We are looking to have in our possession two ounces of weed (marijuana) personally for sacramental use,” said the President of the Guyana Rastafari Council.

No arbitrary legalisation of ganja, says AG

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