Legalising ganja could be contradictory – Granger

As calls continue to be made for marijuana use to be decriminalized, President David Granger says government will contradict itself if it concedes to this given that it has already taken a position on smoking in public places and will on Thursday be tabling legislation in this regard.

“It would be quite contradictory for us to bring legislation to prohibit smoking in public places and elsewhere and to bring legislation to encourage or to decriminalise smoking of another substance,” he said during a recording of the programme, “The Public’s Interest” on Friday last.

He said the marijuana issue is one that is yet to engage the attention of the Cabinet.

“I don’t want to state a government position but as far as I can see…it is contradictory to work towards banning smoking which is known to be a leading cause of death worldwide and decriminalize smoking [of marijuana] at the same time.”

He said that in making an arrangement with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), government is inclined to ensure that young people are protected from the effects of smoking, “altogether, [from] smoking anything.”

It was following the handing down of a three-year sentence to popular football coach Vibert Butts that marijuana consumption once again became a topic of public debate.

Butts had pleaded guilty to having 46 grammes of cannabis in his possession for trafficking.

According to the law, possession of any amount of cannabis over 15 grammes is considered trafficking, which is an offence that carries a minimum sentence of three years and a maximum of five years behind bars.

Butts has since appealed the sentence and is currently out on bail.

Butts, who was renowned for scoring Guyana’s first World Cup qualifier goal against Suriname in 1976, had repeatedly told the court during the hearing that he did not traffic drugs but that it was simply his way of life and part of his cultural practices.

Within days of the sentencing members of the Rastafarian community staged a demonstration outside the Attorney General’s office to protest against what they described as the “unjust laws” against the possession of cannabis, which they want decriminalized.

While on the picket line, Ras Simeon, President of the Rastafari Council of Guyana, said that his religious rights through which the “holy herb” is utilized are being trampled upon.

He noted that during the elections campaign period, a lot of promises were thrown around but since the new government entered office no change has been sighted on the horizon.

Months before elections, then APNU General Secretary Joseph Harmon had said that an APNU government would review the decriminalisation of cannabis.

This statement was made during a press conference, where he also said that APNU was committed to reviewing the law governing the use of the drug and the sentencing policies that are in place.

In an invited comment recently Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan posited that a review of laws and sentencing policy on marijuana is needed.

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