Members of Parliament during the Throne Speech.
Tickets for spliff possession
The days of people being hauled before the law courts for possession of a spliff are expected to soon come to an end.
It was revealed yesterday that the Government intends to amend the Drug Abuse (Prevention and Control) Act to provide that possession of 14 grams, or half an ounce or less of cannabis, is no longer an offense for which one can be arrested, charged and tried. Once the amendment is passed, Governor General Dame Sandra Mason said, persons will no longer appear before the Magistrates Court in such instances or have the matter lodged on their a criminal record.
However, in delivering an over two-hour long Throne Speech yesterday, as the Parliament of Barbados opened a second historic session under the Barbados Labour Party Administration that was swept to power in 2018, Dame Sandra made it clear that those caught with a “roach” or “spliff” were not getting off scot-free. She noted that the possession will still be unlawful, and will still be punished, with Government employing a ticketing system.
Dame Sandra’s comments came as she stated that scores of young men and some women are being convicted and incarcerated, resulting in them losing their jobs and reputation and being stigmatised over “miniscule quantities of marijuana”. But, she said such cases were a waste of the Police and Court’s time, as significant resources often had to be deployed to investigate, process, take statements and take the cases through to trial.
“In 2019, 4,295 drug and drug related criminal charges were laid against accused persons. This represented 30 percent of the criminal charges laid in that year and were laid against 534 persons. A large number of these cases are minor, but required the deployment of significant police resources... This process has little or no redemptive value and in human terms, a large number of our young men are forever left with the taint of the drug charges and the possible conviction,” she noted.
She added, “It is imperative that we take immediate steps to find an alternative way of dealing with our young men and women who are found with small quantities of cannabis, so that they are educated about, and treated for their drug use, while at the same time, not trivialising the criminal nature of their conduct”.
As such, Dame Sandra stated that instead of arresting a person found in possession of half an ounce or less of cannabis, the police may issue a ticket, similar to a traffic ticket, and the person has 30 days to pay a fine of $200.00.
“The ticket will be called a fixed penalty notice. A person in possession of half an ounce or less and who is under 18 years, or who is 18 years or older and appears to the police to be dependent on cannabis, will be referred to the National Council on Drug Abuse for counselling, in addition to paying the ticket. A person who smokes cannabis in public will not be arrested or detained. The police may issue a ticket to that person, who will have 30 days to pay the ticket,” the Governor General said as she outlined the plan.
“This is not a license for lawlessness and my Government recognises the link between serious drugs and crime, but is also cognisant of international trends and the social realities of Barbados,” she maintained.
She went on to say that failure to pay a ticket for smoking in public or for possession of half an ounce or more, will be an offense and the offender would be required to attend Magistrates Court and may be ordered to do community service or pay a fine of $1,000. She added that failing to pay a ticket will form part of the offender’s criminal record. (JRT)