Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite does not want young people found with small amounts of marijuana sent to jail, but placed in a treatment centre and guided away from drug use.
And he has suggested that substance abuse by the youth should be seen as a medical issue rather than a criminal matter.
Speaking yesterday at the Bank Hall Church of the Nazarene where members of the National Council on Substance Abuse attended a service to launch National Drug Awareness Month, Brathwaite also said he held no position on whether Barbados should legalize or decriminalize marijuana.
“I am neither pro or against the legalisation of marijuana. I don’t have a view one way or the other about it,” he insisted.
But on the matter of the State instituting criminal proceedings against youngsters found in possession of the illegal drug, Brathwaite implied that although his position was newly adopted, he was firm in the conviction.
“I am a convert, even an evangelist to the fact that we need to treat to the addiction as opposed to look at the criminal behaviour. We need to go to the root cause.”
He referred to recent media reports of attorney-at-law Andrew Pilgrim, QC, criticizing the magistracy for remanding to prison a 51-year-old man who was charged for possessing a small quantity of ganja.
“We [Government], and certainly as Minister, I have sent the signal that we would rather not incarcerate individuals for having small quantities of marijuana.
“What we would like to do is to put them into the Drug Treatment Court programme and see how we can divert them from the abuse of substances,” said the Government’s spokesman on legal affairs.
The Barbados Drug Treatment Court opened its doors last year, and Brathwaite said the first batch of offenders who were sent there for treatment would graduate this month.
He said that following this graduation officials would analyze its successes.
“But the feedback I’ve received suggests that we’ve gone in the right direction in terms of trying not to criminalize behaviour where addiction is the issue, but trying to address what can correctly be described as a health care challenge.
“If in doing that then that diverts the individual from criminal behaviour, then it’s more of a success that sending them up to Dodds where they might not necessarily have the type of care and attention that is required,” he stressed.