The Mia Mottley Administration to amend the country’s Drug Abuse (Prevention and Control) Act to provide that “possession of 14 grammes, or half an ounce or less of cannabis is no longer an offence for which one can be arrested, charged and tried; and will therefore not result in an appearance before the Magistrates’ Court or in a criminal record.”
“The possession will still be unlawful, and will still be punished, but there will be a new approach to how we treat the offender, which is already being used successfully in Jamaica and St Vincent,” Governor General Dame Sandra Mason revealed as she delivered the Throne Speech, at the opening at the new session of Parliament at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre this morning.
Such an issue the Governor General said requires “compassion, understanding, empathy and the intervention of my Government, is the conviction and incarceration of scores of young men and some women, causing them to lose their jobs, reputation, opportunity to travel, and to become stigmatised over miniscule quantities of marijuana that on the street would be called ‘a roach’ or ‘a spliff’. Pursuing these matters is a waste of police and court time.
“In my Government’s manifesto of 2018, the matter of the recreational use of marijuana was promised as the subject of a referendum. My Government will honour this promise.”
A large number of these cases, she explained, are minor, but required the deployment of significant police resources in investigating, processing, taking statements and taking the cases through to trial. “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.”
Dame Sandra 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.”
Police would issue a ticket – a fixed penalty notice – to a person in possession of half an ounce or less of cannabis, similar to a traffic ticket, and the person has 30 days to pay a fine of $200.
“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 counseling, 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.
“It will be an offence to fail to pay a ticket for smoking in public or for possession of half an ounce or more. The offender is required to attend Magistrates’ Court and may be ordered to do community service or pay a fine of $1,000. A conviction for failing to pay a ticket will form part of the offender’s criminal record.
“This is not a licence 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,” Dame Sandra said.