Voicing outrage at a three-year jail term for a farmer, the Alliance for Change (AFC) is once again calling for an upgrade of the laws of Guyana to ensure that custodial sentences for small quantities of marijuana are removed in their entirety.
The party which is part of the ruling APNU+AFC coalition yesterday expressed deep concern after 27 year old father and poultry farmer Carl Mangal was sentenced to three years’ incarceration, for the possession of eight grammes of marijuana.
In a statement the party noted that it is not questioning the decision of the magistrate in any way as it recognizes that the magistrate, as is the case with all her colleagues, are “constrained by the law with regard to the issue of custodial sentencing for possession of small quantities of marijuana.”
The party argued that possession of small quantities of marijuana is “an offence which is a mere error in judgement and not representative of criminal behaviour” but custodial sentences serve, in large measure, to criminalize young people, particularly young men who have been caught with these small quantities.
It also announced that it will commence plans to host, in the near future, a national symposium on the issue at which all stakeholders and sectors of society will be invited to deliberate and exchange views while noting that one of its Parliamentarians had brought to the National Assembly a bill designed to address this issue.
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) (Amendment) Bill was tabled in December 2015 in the name of AFC Member of Parliament Michael Carrington but it has since been “languishing on the order paper, being deferred time and time again.”
In August 2017, Carrington had told Stabroek News that he was confident that the bill would be debated at the end of the parliamentary recess.
He had stressed that the APNU which had expressed no opinion on the bill were on board as the matter had been discussed at several cabinet meetings.
Carrington had stated that the AFC agreed that it would deal with the matter with party executive and Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan undertaking the task of speaking with the APNU.
“As you know we are a coalition and at the time of my tabling there was a little resentment over it because I did not communicate too much with the other side before I actually tabled the bill”, he had said adding that this is what caused the hold up.
Despite these assurances the bill has not been debated. The AFC is however declaring once again that “the time to act is now.”
“We must no longer sit idly by and allow our young men and women to be sentenced to several years of jail time alongside hardened criminals, murderers and rapists. We will not be found complicit in destroying the lives of our young people and wounding our society rather than acting to heal it,” the party explained.