Removal of jail time for small amounts of ganja not yet law

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The Government of Guyana, in seeking to clarify some confusion within the public, has made it clear that Cabinet’s approval of a proposal to remove jail time for 30 grams or less of marijuana is not yet law.

The Government’s first statement announcing the approval of the proposal Tuesday was vague and left many with their own interpretation, however, a subsequent statement late Tuesday night explained the process to which this new measure will now become law.

It was noted that the draft amendments of the Narcotics Drug and Psychotropic Substances (Control) (Amendment) Bill 2015 were presented to a Cabinet meeting in Linden on April 30, 2019 where it was approved and now has to go to the Attorney General’s chambers but once the final draft has been approved by Cabinet, it is added to the National Assembly’s Order Papers, read, debated and then voted on.

“The approval of the proposal, therefore, does not render it law; it is simply the first step,” the Government clarified.

“Possession is still illegal. The Government only proposes to remove custodial sentences for 30 grams or less of marijuana,” Government noted.

But this decision by the Government is being questioned given the fact that the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) recently upheld the passage of a No-Confidence Motion against the Government.

Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire, in upholding the passage of the motion, had said that the Cabinet of the Coalition Government ceased to exist immediately upon the passage of the No Confidence motion on the night of December 21, 2018.

The President and his senior ministers form the Cabinet, which meets regularly to make decisions and decide whether to give a “no objection” to the award of contracts and deliberate on other issues.

Article 106 (6) of the Constitution dictates that the President and Cabinet shall resign if there is the passage of a No Confidence motion.

However, the Chief Justice noted that there is no provision in the constitution for there to be a “formal” resignation and so it was her view that the Cabinet ceased to exist once the motion was carried.

After the CJ’s ruling, the Government announced that it ceased meeting as a “Cabinet” and met as a “Plenary.”

However, it is not known whether there have been any Cabinet meetings since the CCJ ruled.

It is also unclear whether this new measure to remove jail time for small amounts of marijuana will make it to Parliament before the end of the year since the National Assembly is not slated to meet any time soon unless it is to extend the date for general and regional elections.

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