Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 23rd 2013 Contents B2
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, September 23, 2013
Are we ready for a change in law?
Writing on the British Foreign and
Commonwealth Office Web site, UK
High Commissioner to T&T Arthur
Snell gave a brief but detailed
explanation of the laws on marijuana
in Britain and the policing methods
used to enforce them. The key points
• In the UK, marijuana is a "Class B"
drug, ie illegal.
• The maximum penalty for
supplying or producing marijuana is 14
years' imprisonment and/or an
• The maximum penalty for
possession is five years' imprisonment.
• Imprisonment for possession of
marijuana is very rare.
• When someone is caught for the
first time with a small amount of
cannabis for personal use the police
have the option of using a "cannabis
warning:" a spoken warning given by a
police officer, either on the street or at
the police station.
• On a subsequent occasion
someone possessing cannabis may be
issued with a Penalty Notice for
Disorder (PND) and a spot fine of £80.
• Someone issued with a PND or a
cannabis warning will not have this
recorded on their criminal record.
• Andy Hayman, deputy
commissioner of the Metropolitan
Police in London, said of the policy:
"People caught with small amounts of
cannabis for personal use will not be
arrested unless they are under age. You
will be challenged, because to have
possession of that drug is illegal. But
the guidance [says] focus on class A
[drugs such as heroin and crack
• In March 2012, the Economist
declared, "Cannabis has in effect been
decriminalised in Britain."
• In April a group called London
Cannabis Club organised a pro-
legalisation rally at which hundreds
were alleged to have smoked
marijuana openly in Hyde Park, London.
• According to the European
Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug
Addiction, the proportion of people
who admit to having used cannabis in
Britain has fallen more quickly than in
any other European country over the
past few years.
• 6.8 per cent of UK adults said they
had used cannabis in a 2010, survey,
down from 10.9 per cent eight years
• The UK experience appears to be
that reducing the penalties has also led
to reducing the abuse.
Snell: UK experience shows reducing
penalties leads to reducing the abuse
A marijuana field
Last week he reiterated his view, say-
ing, "High people in high places with
arthritis boil ganja and drink it. They
boil the root for asthma. An old lady
I have known for many years who
belonged to the Legion of Mary, as holy
as the Pope---she used to drink it.
"It s not reinventing the wheel," he
went on to say. "Twenty states in the
US have legalised it medically with no
interference from the federal govern-
The system implemented by states
such as California---where cards are
issued by medical practitioners and
patients can buy high-grade marijuana
from licensed clinics---might be more
difficult to implement in countries like
T&T or St Vincent.
But Gonsalves argued that it should
be manageable to implement the nec-
essary adaptations to the region s legal
and pharmaceutical systems.
More importantly, he said, Archie
had taken the issue further by advo-
cating decriminalisation of possession
of small amounts for non-medical pur-
poses also. Archie believes prosecuting
individuals for minor non-violent
offences, particularly weed possession,
is breeding criminality and wasting
vital police resources.
This is an opinion shared by a police
inspector from the Western Division
(who preferred to remain unnamed),
when he spoke to the T&T Guardian
in the wake of the police operation
that led to a shootout and the death
of a man in Diego Martin two weeks
ago. Six hundred kilos of marijuana
were recovered in that operation on
the North Post Road. The inspector
said one of his officers could have died
in the shootout and the death of the
suspect was a waste of life.
Gonsalves said, broadly speaking,
the Caribbean region considers any-
thing below 14 grams (half an ounce)
of marijuana to be for personal use,
while anything above that amount indi-
cates intent to supply. The current sys-
tem, he said, allowed arbitrary abuse
by police, some of whom might charge
a possessor for little amounts while
other officers wouldn t.
Historically, he said, marijuana was
permissible under the British in T&T
when indentured Indian labourers
Marijuana, not an indigenous
Caribbean plant, arrived from India
during British colonial rule and thrived
in the tropical conditions here. Much
of the region s supply comes from St
Vincent, Jamaica and Colombia.
Asked whether it could constitute
an important agricultural income for
St Vincent, Gonsalves said of the
96,000 acres of land in his country,
33 per cent is forest and another 40
per cent built on. "That leaves about
20,000 acres of land available for cul-
tivating anything. We need to find a
niche. We ve thought about cocoa and
types of vegetables. We feel marijuana
cultivation, like in California, would
Bringing the conversation back to
the human level, he ended by saying,
"If you find a guy smoking a spliff
behind his grandmother s house, is he
doing anything to harm anybody,
except perhaps himself? If you are in
the bedroom with your wife and before
or after making love you smoke a joint,
should that be a criminal offence?"
It was, of course, a rhetorical ques-
tion. His view is clear.
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