Faced with prison term, ganja smoker pleads not guilty

Allegedly busted by the police while smoking a “lil roach,” Sherwin Smith yesterday changed his guilty plea to not guilty after he was faced with the reality that he would have to serve a prison term.

Smith, 36, of Kumaka Waterfront, made an appearance in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court One, charged with smoking cannabis on May 13 at Kumaka, Mabaruma. The man did not deny the charge when it was read to him by Chief Magistrate Priya Sewnarine-Beharry.

The police allege that on the date in question, police ranks had been in the Kumaka area patrolling when they observed Smith sitting in a chair on the roadside. The man, the police say, had been smoking at the time. He was stopped and a search was carried out, during which the suspected illicit substance was discovered. It was tested in Smith’s presence and proved that the “roach” was indeed marijuana.

He was subsequently arrested and charged.

In his defence, Smith admitted that he had been smoking but it had just been “a lil roach.” However, Magistrate Sewnarine-Beharry emphasized that the penalty for the offence was a fine along with imprisonment, regardless of whether it was “a lil roach or a big roach.”

According to the laws of Guyana, the penalty for the offence carries a prison sentence of one to three years together with a fine. Following the declaration of this information, Smith immediately changed his plea to not guilty.

Prosecutor Bharat Mangru raised no objections to the man being granted bail. Before it could be granted, however, Smith was questioned on any past run-ins with the law. The self-employed man admitted that he had been charged in 1997 with attempted murder but, since then, he had only been charged for minor offences, such as gambling and fighting.

Smith was subsequently granted bail in the sum of $50,000. He requested a decrease in the figure after explaining that he could not afford the initial bail.

The bail was reduced to $40,000. Smith, once more, raised objections but the bail was maintained at $40,000.

Along with bail, Smith was ordered to report every Friday at 9am to the Mabaruma Police Station. He will make his next appearance at the Mabaruma Magistrate’s Court on May 19.



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