AFC relying on PPP’s support for marijuana reform

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Alliance For Change (AFC) and Government Parliamentarian, Michael Carrington Friday said that he is relying on a conscience vote from both his colleague parliamentarians in Government and opposition Parliamentarians when he pilots the amendment to the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.

The move to amend the Act is to make changes to the sentencing policy for persons found with small amounts of marijuana for which Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said on Thursday that he is ready to support.

At a press conference today at the AFC’s Headquarters, Carrington admitted that it is unlikely that he will get the full support of all Government MPs when the matter is put to a vote but he is confident that with the support of the parliamentary opposition he will be able to move the amendments forward.

He is, however, concerned that the People’s Progressive Party seems prepared to offer its support to the amendments now as an opposition but failed to change the law during its 23 years in Government.

Carrington reasoned that the same incarceration of the country’s youth which has prompted renewed calls for law reform were the same challenges faced under the PPP rule and “they did nothing.”

“They had done nothing whatsoever to deal with the matter,” he added.

Notwithstanding this, he told reporters that he is looking for a conscience vote from both sides of the House and hopes that good sense will prevail.

He reminded that he had tabled a Motion to this effect in the House since 2015 but said the absence of the Advisory Council and a Rehabilitation Fund had stalled moves to debate the Motion.

He said the Government was also awaiting the CARICOM report on marijuana use before it makes evidence-based policy decisions.

Carrington could not say when the Amendment Bill would first make its way to Cabinet but he is confident that change in sentencing policy is likely before the end of the year.

“I hope we wouldn’t have a situation with a lot of persons smoking…. Jailing a person doesn’t stop a person from smoking and I don’t want to see people go to jail for just a joint.”

The AFC is proposing to amend the law to give Magistrates discretion when sentencing which would allow for persons to do community service and/or be sent to rehabilitation.

Carrington also reiterated the need for the Advisory Council and the Rehabilitation fund in this regard.

Meanwhile, his colleague MP, Minister Khemraj Ramjattan addressed the seeming inconsistency with the Government’s position on the issue.

Ramjattan, who serves as the country’s Minister of Public Security, defended it as being “a great democracy and the beauty of living in a democracy.”

He said the Government has a divergence of views on several matters but insisted that there was agreement on the need to address sentencing policy for marijuana use in small amounts.

“It is sound and very sensible,” Ramjattan said, pointing out that the issue was raised at the last meeting of Cabinet.

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