A sitting High Court judge in Barbados is recommending the legalisation of marijuana.
However, Justice Randall Worrell told a National Consultation on the Barbados Anti-Drug Plan for 2013-2017 at Amaryllis Beach Resort this afternoon, that the decriminalisation of this drug should be for personal use only.
Focusing his address on the Government’s proposed drug treatment courts, their challenges and the way forward, the judge suggested that a person with a “simple possession”, should be moved out of the drug treatment court.
“We’ve seen that criminal penalties, particularly incarceration; those should be reserved for those who have committed drug-related crimes, not simple possession. So that is another way, if you set up a drug treatment court, of removing persons with simple possession…, remove that person out of the drug treatment court,” Worrell added.
“Those are not dealt with as far as drug treatment court is concerned. †Drug laws, we also have to review. Some of you may not like this — it may cause a little indigesion, [but] I think we have to look at being realistic. Drug laws would have to be reviewed to decriminalise drug use and possession for personal use.”
He noted that this was the approach being taken in other parts of the world.
“There is nothing to say that that cannot be taken in Barbados. Do you wish to clog up the criminal justice system with someone who has … for personal use. We all have to look at that. We are all the stakeholders in this,” asserted the judicial officer.
Arguing that the establishment of such courts was by no means being “soft” on crime, he observed that the practice of sending drug offenders to prison for treatment had failed and it was time to shift from the criminal justice approach to this problem, to one of public health.
“So if we want to move away from this repressive, abstinence-based response to drugs … we need to prepare ourselves so that all of our institutions are capable,” he stated.
“We have been characterised by a lack of resources. Anyone who goes to the court would see that when it comes to areas such as the Probation Department, they are under-staffed; the health care facilities, they are under-staffed; the police themselves have been complaining for years that they are under-staffed.
“So what would have to happen is that resources need to be allocated. †If we are going to allocate resources we have to approach this, not as a criminal justice problem, per se, but we also have to deal with it as a problem which also involves the public health.”
“The question is: How do you sell it to the general public?” he added. “Persons have said already, you are approaching this in the wrong way, you are going soft of crime. It isn’t a question of going soft on crime. The question is, how do you effectively treat someone who is a drug dependent offender?
“If it is a question of sending that person to prison, that has failed. So we need to ask ourselves: Do we also need to boost our social and health services? And that is something I think we need to look at, because in order to properly and effectively have a proper running drug treatment court, there are other aspects of the justice system that have to be dealt with; other aspects of our social services that have to be dealt with.”
He said he was of the view that Barbados must not fall into the same trap as Jamaica, where the financing was not forthcoming and the court ran into problems.
“How do you get funding for an initiative like this in a recession?” asked the legal official.
“I think what we have to do is to approach the private sector… You approach the private sector and give them some sort of tax incentive. In other words, if you are looking to boost your social services, that is health and that is housing, these are areas you have to boost, if you are to properly deal with drug treatment courts and treatment of offenders.
“For every $50,000 that you invest in different programmes such as housing, health, mental health, treatment, … you are going to have a tax credit of $75,000.” (EJ)†