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Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday on Thursday told Parliament there were contradictions in proposed changes to the nation’s marijuana law that lawmakers are debating.

He said that to benefit from the provisions under some parts of the law, persons would actually commit other offences.

The opposition leader said he was not sure why the Ralph Gonsalves government was being “so timid” with the law, which will make smoking of marijuana in public or possession of less than two ounces of the drug a ticketable offence.

If the changes are passed into law, a person in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana cannot be jailed for it and will also not get a criminal record because of it.

Friday noted that in Antigua and Barbuda, it is legal for a person to grow up to four marijuana plants on private premises.

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“And we have made a proposal to say similar things should be done here,” he told Parliament.

He said that in not making such a provision, a problem is created for residents of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where smoking marijuana in one’s home would become legal if the act is passed into law.

Friday said: “Here is the problem, Mr. Speaker: we are saying it is possible for someone to have in his possession two ounces or less of cannabis. But where will the person get it from? They have to get it from an illegal trafficker, as it is now, if he can’t grow it himself.

“… So now you have a regime that is saying you are making it more permissible for persons to smoke in a public place or to possess up to 15 grammes but they have to buy it from somebody who produces it illegally.”

The opposition leader’s statement was not well received by government lawmakers.

In response he said:

“What are you shaking your head for? How else would you do it if you can’t grow it yourself? Where do you get it from?

“So my proposal, Mr. Speaker, is if you are going to do it, make it a complete circle. If you are doing to have small possession, have small quantities that you grow yourself so, therefore, you don’t have to go and purchase it from somebody who is a trafficker and encourage, in a sense, by this legislation, the use and trafficking at the same time.”Friday said he did not see why his proposed amendment is so complicated, adding that this is something he believes will reduce incidences of trafficking which are still and should remain illegal.

Gondwin Friday
Opposition Leader Godwin Friday. (iWN file photo)

The opposition leader, who is a lawyer, said he prefers when legislation speaks clearly about its intention.

He said that the law says it is illegal to use cannabis in a public place, meaning that one can do so in their private home.

He, however, said that a similar thing does not apply if a person has it as a mere possession in their private home.

“So if a police officer is in your home, for whatever reason, and find a spliff (marijuana cigarette), he can still charge you, because you are not smoking it. It’s possession.

“So that, too, to be consistent, it has to be brought in line with the provision for smoking… Otherwise, you would have the strange situation where the police will have to stand up at your fence and watch you smoking in your porch, but if they see you have it … somewhere on a ledge they can come and take it, because you are not smoking it. And I am sure that can’t be the intention.”

Friday said that lawmakers could say that police officers have to exercise common-sense.

“But we have seen enough, Mr, Speaker, where it is used as ways, as wedges to get at different things and it should not be left to their discretion.

“If we are drafting the law, it should be a legal right, it should be a protection that is offered to the persons who we are saying, in this decriminalised regime or, as the [CARICOM Marijuana] Commission has said, it is actually a hybrid we have here because in designated private places it is actually legal, in your private home it is actually legal, not decriminalised, the police have no business with you if you are doing it in those places, and in a tabernacle.” 

Minister can say ‘yes’, and police ‘no’ 

Pointing to another apparent contradiction, Friday said the bill says that the minister may designate public areas where smoking marijuana is legal, although the smoking of marijuana in public is still an offence

“So, here you are saying that the minister says you can smoke there but if the police see you, can still be fined,” Friday said. “There is nowhere in the legislation that says you don’t pay a ticket except if you smoke in your home. If I have the wrong interpretation, then let me know…”

Marijuana 2
A man smokes a marijuana cigarette in St. Vincent. (IWN file photo)

He noted that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, in presenting the bill, said that persons who have suffered penalties for possession of small quantities of marijuana are owed an apology

Friday noted that just last year, the prime minister told the media that his government opposes the full-scale decriminalisation of marijuana, saying that a poll had showed that that was the view of 62 per cent of the country’s population.

“But he is saying now that we should have done it a long time ago. Well, one thing that can be done is to expunge the record of all those persons who have convictions for two ounces or less and do it wholesale.”

Friday said that Antigua has done so, adding, “It’s not a radical thing to do.”

He noted that the law provides for persons in the future who are in possession of two ounces or less of marijuana.

“And I think that ought to be a necessary part for fairness and since the Honourable Prime Minister has since rightly indicated that these measures should have been brought a long time ago, if it had been brought a long time ago, a lot of these people would not have records, so we should go back, expunge the records of those people, Mr. Speaker, who have been convicted.”

At this point, the prime minister rose and noted that possession with intent to supply refers to in excess of 15 grammes of marijuana.

He said that a person’s record does not state the quantum of marijuana for which they had been convicted.

“… possession with intent to supply can go from over 15 grammes to pounds,” said Gonsalves, who is also a lawyer.

“That’s a problem we are working through,” he said, adding that those convicted of simple conviction can be cleared.

Friday, however, said the clarification does not negate the issue of expunging the record because lawmakers can deal with it for simple possession at least.

He added that trafficking is not covered under the law, so what was being debated was smoking and simple possession.

“So expunge the record of those persons… Antigua has done it. It can’t be that difficult,” the opposition leader said.

Under the proposed new law, a person who admits to possession of less than two ounces of marijuana would be issued an EC$80 ticket and would be summoned to appear in court, if they deny the charge.

In court, a person can be charged EC$500 for possession of less than two ounces.

Friday, however, said that someone might deny liability if they are unsure of the quantity of marijuana in their possession, adding that in such a circumstance, putting the person in jeopardy of an EC$500 fine is excessive and the fine should also be EC$80. 

Regarding smoking marijuana in a public place, Friday said one might think that most persons accept the lesser liability of EC$80.

“But $80 for somebody who doesn’t have $20 is still a lot of money to admit to,” he said, adding that this can create hardships for someone who is using marijuana for recreational purposes.

He said that if the intention is to not penalise for an activity that is essentially permissible, then the fine can amount to quite a severe fine, noting that there is no limit to the number of times that persons can be brought before the court

“So there has to be, Mr. Speaker, some way of ensuring that the discretion of the officers who are enforcing this bill is exercised in an even-handed way and not in any personal or biased manner,” he said.

He said that some police officers might target certain people, giving them an EC$80 ticket every Monday morning, and this adds up.

“These are considerations that are real in terms of the way in which this legislation is implemented,” the opposition leader said.

8 replies on “Contradictions in new ganja law — Friday”

  1. There is a question that one needs to ask and it is this, is the whole idea behind these law amendments a design to get the nation stoned on cannabis? Why do I ask this question?

    I ask the question because when one gets stoned on Cannabis the known effects of Cannabis on most users are quite profound, though the effects of cannabis may vary from person to person but here are some of the known effects;

    “One may feel chilled out, relaxed and happy, some people get the giggles or become more talkative, hunger pangs (“the munchies”) are common, colours may look more intense and music may sound better, time may feel like it’s slowing down.

    Cannabis can have other effects too: if one is not used to it, one may feel faint or sick, it can make one sleepy and lethargic, it can affect one’s memory, it makes some people feel confused, anxious or paranoid, and some experience panic attacks and hallucinations – this is more common with stronger forms of cannabis like skunk or sinsemilla, it interferes with one’s ability to drive safely”.

    With these effects in mind it would not be very hard for the nation to forget its deprivation and the extended family dictatorship that have impoverished us. They turning us into new plantation fodder. Worst, If one use cannabis regularly, it can make one be demotivated and uninterested in other things that is going on in one’s life, such as education or work. Making the nation the perfect plantation fodder in any extended family dictatorship!

    Watch Boris Johnson gives his first statement in the British House of Parliament his being their new PM, while pointing out to the opposition Labour party leader there and to “the house,” that it is successful enterprise that creates wealth in the British society.

    When will we too learn that lesson about enterprise, wealth and hope or are we too trapped and subdued on dope to be bothered?

  2. Rawlston Pompey says:


    In a particular jurisdiction, a certain quantity has been decriminalized.

    Additionally, a limited number of growing plants has also been decriminalized.

    For instance, here in Antigua and Barbuda a person is allowed to ‘…possess 15 Grammes of cured cannabis for recreational use at home,’ as well as allowed to grow 4 plants at home.

    Grown away from home constitutes the offence ‘…Cultivation of Cannabis.’

    Friday is correct. Obviously, if a person has no growing plants from which to ‘…pick the decriminalized consumable quantity,’ reasonable inferences might be drawn that he/she would have to source it illegally from drug pushers.

    Though Law enforcement have not shown much interest in this miniscule quantity, they still look for excess quantity and number of plants exceeding 4 grown at home.

    Friday is also correct; certain groups remains constantly under their radar.

    Drug dealers who were found in excess of ’15 Grammes’ and claimed that the possessed quantity derived from cutting down the 4 plants, were duly convicted.

    The defendants were not able to show any live growing plants.

    The Court had ruled on the ‘Quantity’ possessed.

  3. Urlan Alexander says:

    While the intent of this amendment is good because the government has no intention of bringing a decriminalization bill to parliament it seeks to amend the existing misused of drug act. The amendment seems it is riddled with contradictions as is being exposed by the opposition leader.
    The NDP always insist on decriminalization and quite a substantial number of Vincentians are of a similar view. The ULP obviously has responded to the opposition and people’s pressure and rushed to bring a amendment with elections around the corner and has messed it up it seems.

  4. This is typical for our present lawmakers in the SVG Government.Our Prime Minister and his gang of clowns have a reputation of not having the ability of thinking things through. It reminds me of the law they copied from another country of stripping people naked on the streets if they wear camouflaged clothes.The difference is that in the Saint Vincent Constitution it states that above all else the law of the country is to uphold Human Dignity.
    How dignified is it to be stripped naked on the streets?

    Our present government is a bunch of incompetent autocratic imbecile clowns when it comes to crafting laws! And they have no respect for our Constitution. Only when it suits thier purposes.

  5. On the surface what Dr, Friday proposes sounds correct , but when you peel back the skin and examine this proposal deeper , I believe it will cause a bigger problems and “open a can of worms” so to speak ……one problem would be containment .
    But I do believe his proposal was meant and should be taken in good faith . This is a great healthy bipartisan debate that should continue .
    I talked before about issuing tickets not only to small quantity of marijuana users but petty criminals in general to help with unclogging the judiciary and penal system .
    Educating the youths and public about marijuana usage a very important responsibility as Ralph points out .

  6. David Wilson says:

    anything that impaires your five senes or you good jugement to make the right décision could not be right for you this is just a big money marketing grab. Get real.this is another way to intoxicate the mind. Under medical use .

  7. Jolly Green says:

    This whole matter and the ensuing debate is little more than a smoke screen to take the publics focus from the tenders board.

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