Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves on Thursday presented to Parliament an amendment to the nation’s marijuana law that will make smoking of two ounces (56 grammes) or less a ticketable offence, if the offender admits to the crime.

Under the proposed changes being debated by lawmakers, a person who is in possession of up to two ounces of marijuana cannot be arrested for it, cannot be jailed for it, and you will not get a criminal record because of it.

The law also makes smoking of marijuana in public a similarly ticketable offence, but makes it legal for persons to use the drug in their home or at places of Rastafarian worship.

If the new law gets the approval of lawmakers, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana is still a criminal offence, but the maximum penalty that the court can impose is EC$500 dollars.

But this penalty doesn’t have to be imposed because the law says that there is way in which the liability can be discharged, Gonsalves told lawmakers, adding that this is an important point because the international convention says possession of marijuana is an offence.

In order for a person who is accused of being in possession of two ounces or less of marijuana to appear in court, they have to be summoned.

The prime minister said if a police officer meets someone with two ounces of cannabis or less, and the person admits to possession, the officer would give the person a card containing health and education information about the use of marijuana.

“The health information here is where you can get counselling.  And the policeman must draw to your attention, if you are under 18, or if it appears reasonable to him that you are dependent on the cannabis, they have to point out specifically to you where you can get counselling,” Gonsalves said, adding, “Education and counselling; alternative mode to incarceration.”

The prime minister said that if the person denies possession of marijuana, they will be given a summons and if the substance, after scientific testing, is proven to be cannabis, the magistrate would deal with the person.

“But I would think that 99.99 per cent of those will tell the police, ‘Yes, is mine own. Is weed’,” Gonsalves said.

He said a national campaign will be instituted beyond what exists.

Gonsalves said that his government has created in the new law an offence called smoking in a public place, noting that public places do not include one’s home and a place of Rastafarian worship.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

The law also makes smoking of marijuana in public a similarly ticketable offence, but makes it legal for persons to use the drug in their home or at places of Rastafarian worship.

If the new law gets the approval of lawmakers, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana is still a criminal offence, but the maximum penalty that the court can impose is EC$500 dollars.

But this penalty doesn’t have to be imposed because the law says that there is way in which the liability can be discharged, Gonsalves told lawmakers, adding that this is an important point because the international convention says possession of marijuana is an offence.

In order for a person who is accused of being in possession of two ounces or less of marijuana to appear in court, they have to be summoned.

The prime minister said if a police officer meets someone with two ounces of cannabis or less, and the person admits to possession, the officer would give the person a card containing health and education information about the use of marijuana.

“The health information here is where you can get counselling.  And the policeman must draw to your attention, if you are under 18, or if it appears reasonable to him that you are dependent on the cannabis, they have to point out specifically to you where you can get counselling,” Gonsalves said, adding, “Education and counselling; alternative mode to incarceration.”

The prime minister said that if the person denies possession of marijuana, they will be given a summons and if the substance, after scientific testing, is proven to be cannabis, the magistrate would deal with the person.

“But I would think that 99.99 per cent of those will tell the police, ‘Yes, is mine own. Is weed’,” Gonsalves said.

He said a national campaign will be instituted beyond what exists.

Gonsalves said that his government has created in the new law an offence called smoking in a public place, noting that public places do not include one’s home and a place of Rastafarian worship.

He noted that a judge in St. Kitts recently ruled that to criminalise the smoking of marijuana in one’s home contravenes the privacy provision of the constitution.

On the issue of the smoking on the block (roadsides), the prime minister said the “tolerance will continue” but noted that one cannot be arrested or incarcerated and will not have a record for it.

The fine for smoking in public is also EC$500 if one is convicted before a magistrate’s court.

However, if the offender admits to the offence to the police, he or she will be given one month to pay an EC$80 ticket.

“Now, I believe that most people will say to the government, and where the opposition participated, that you all have done something which is reasonable in the circumstances and to stay within the four walls of the international conventions,” Gonsalves said.

He said the relevant minister will be empowered to put a cut-off date and clean the record of persons who have been convicted for possession of two ounces of marijuana or less.

The prime minster further said that going forward, a person under the age of 18 who is convicted for two ounces or less will see their record wiped after six months, and after one year for persons 18 and over.

Possession of any amount of marijuana on school premises or at sports and cultural events where there are students will continue to be a criminal offence.

“So we are protecting the children, we are dealing with it in a health and educational manner,” Gonsalves said, noting that once approved by Parliament, the law will come into effect when assented to by the Governor General.

Gonsalves said that the bill avoids “the shorthand journalistic distinction between decriminalisation and legalisation”.

He said the literature shows that it is an “intellectually lazy” distinction because of the international conventions and other provisions in international law concerning marijuana and the extant circumstances and the history of the prohibition “relating to this drug”.

The prime minister said his government has brought the bill as the third in the triad, the other being the Medical cannabis industry and the marijuana amnesty laws passed last year.

He said the government arranged its legislative agenda this way because it knew that when it addressed the medical cannabis industry and the amnesty, persons would begin to say that if they are doing that, why not follow “the brother from Jamaica with his famous reggae song, ‘Legalise it’”.

Gonsalves said that while that is a catchy slogan, slogans by themselves do not make good public policy.

He said that his government, therefore, had to frame the question of possession of small quantities and smoking in public places in a creative way, taking into account local circumstances and the international law and convention on narcotics, 1961 and subsequent international legal provision.

He said that his government wanted to make sure that in reforming the law it set about in having medical cannabis become an important aspect of the economy for job and wealth creation.

“A properly regulated medical cannabis industry” he said, adding that the international convention makes provision for the use of marijuana for medical and research purposes.

“That is why you have to craft it within that particular context,” he said.

He said that since his government came to office in March 2001, there has been “great police tolerance” for persons who use small quantities of marijuana.

The prime minister said that he has urged successive commissioners of police to be tolerant in that regard.

The debate continues. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that possession of two ounces or less of marijuana is a ticketable offence. Actually, if a person in possession of that quantity admds to that possession, they are only given education information. Smoking of marijuana, however, is a ticketable offence.

9 replies on “Smoking of 2 ounces of weed to be made ticketable offence”

  1. Agustus Carr says:

    Smart Move. Long overdue. Very Strategic. This is Major revenue generator. Brilliant decision.

  2. Jolly Green says:

    Simply an attempt to make people look in a different direction regarding all the corruption scandal’s going on at the moment. It’s just buying the minds of the ignorant.

  3. Asinto carr says:

    Wow…they say the law is to protect the children…speaking in relation to marijuana at public events like sports….bullshit…the children will eventually go home where their parents can have it and use as much as they wish…within the confines of the home.
    Then they can be in the public high as a kite….what a joke….just free up the freaking weed.

  4. The opposition tells Parliament that there are contradictions in the proposed new cannabis laws before Parliament but when we make a pact with the devil by selling our soul to the him, there will inevitable be indeed obvious contradictions by the nature of dealing with devils and yet, some will not be so obvious.

    In our Bible the book of Revelation begins by announcing that it is; “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,” Watch that word “signified” for a moment!

    The word signified could be expressed as “the meaning or idea expressed by a sign, as distinct from the physical form in which it is expressed”. Hence this symbolic forms in which this Bible book is written, often gives the unlearned in biblical matters, much difficulty in understanding, yet the book itself is not that difficult to grapple with, once one could understand the symbolic forms that are being signified.

    So too in making a pact with a Devil and selling one’s soul to him, one’s actions may be most difficult to understand by some, yet the said action would be very easily recognisable by those who are familiar with recognising desperate wayward delinquency behaviour.

    Our Bible has this other statement to make; Mark 8:36-37 New King James Version (NKJV)
    36 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” A most searching question indeed that we should all ponder?

    As we know, a pact is a treaty or other agreement between parties and some pacts, once made, are very, very hard to rescind. Indeed one made with a Devil, no doubt, will always have the profoundest and the severest of consequences and will prove the most difficult to rescind.

  5. Agustus Carr says:

    Our Prime Minister is a man of share brilliance. He however has some very ruff edges. You have no choice but to respect and admire the man for his intellect. While I disagree with him on some issues, I think he is an absolute genius and a gift to SVG.

    There are many intelligent people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and persons of Vincentian origin. They must all be given a fair opportunity to serve our country. No one should be denied and opportunity because of his/her political persuasion. Our success as country will be best achieved through respectable civil discourse, ingenuity, self actualization, and innovative, cohesive and strategic thinking.

    For example, Lets look at this. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is one of the worlds leading dasheen producers but yet we are still unable to fully penetrate dominate the market. The question is how can our dasheen achieve it’s worth? This can be simply answer in this manner. How did Guinness, Cuban Cigars, Cognac, Champaign and the likes maintain market dominance?

    The people who produce these items set out to create the best product. Likewise Vincentians must tell themselves that we produce and will produce the best dasheen in the world. Second we must create a brand identity. All goods produce in the Marriaqua Valley must be sold under a special label, like Champagne, which is branded from the Region it was produced. Third, we must establish strategic alliances with major food distributors in North America and Europe. Forth, we must get the produce to the Market. Fifth, this must be sustainable. Finally, we must create a value added process where we refine produce like dasheen, breadfruit and our abundant fruits at the highest possible standard. Our produce can only establish the prominence that they deserve if we are determined to take them to that level.

    The most successful people in the world have one common trait. It is called, “grit”,. You can see grit in many persons such as Steve Jobs of APPLE, Facebook-Mark Zucherberg, Microsoft- Bill Gates, Butch Stewart-Sandals Resort founder. It is also a trait in our own Prime Minister, Ralph E Gonsalves. These men are and were determined to succeed. We too can achieve this as a people.

    Let’s innovate, create and dominate.

  6. David Wilson says:

    Really this big money grab is paying off. The nation has been trick again. under the médical marijuana law. Wake up God word jehovah can heal and cure anyone or anything the word is God and nothing is impossible with him when the word is follow wake up st Vincent and the grenadine !! it all about money from the very start.robber and theif .

  7. The idea of brilliance, on the part of our Prime Minister dear Agustus Carr, is thoroughly grossly over hyped. The man possess nothing of the sort. He is just a cunning old man, who knows very well how to manipulate a primitive set of people, who lacks good education.

    My dear Agustus no right thinking individual, with the welfare of the citizenry in mind, would heap upon our small nation, whose roads are very narrow, such a hideous humbug, as making legal the widespread growth and use of marijuana / Cannabis, call it what you will. Such an unwise act could only result in mass harm that is readily and reasonably foreseeably on the data now easily available to governments!

    “Preliminary research indicates that the legalization of recreational marijuana in 10 states has increased accident rates, the Insurance Information Institute said.”
    https://www.insurancejournal.com/magazines/mag-features/2019/04/01/521808.htm

    Are we not suffering enough already from the consumption of too much white Rum?

    1. no…its cunning how you changed the narrative to legalizing marijuana lol . The PM time and time again said his gov is not interested in bring a bill to legalize recreational weed . furthermore regardless of what laws are in place nothing can stop marijuana usage so thats why education and information on marijuana effects and use is vital to impact choices as the PM clearly pointed out …………..Nice try James .
      I cant help to wonder if your “beef ” with the PM is strictly on political policies or just personal ?
      for the record I dont agree with all the PM work and policies but I have to call it as i see it ” so to speak .

  8. My dear AL if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it is a duck and it does not matter to me what the PM says are his desires.

    One indeed does not have to look very far for the growing body of evidence that is slowly building up regarding the inevitable disastrous future that we in SVG are now madly heading headlong into, by this government amending of the laws on the use of Marijuana in the state.

    We note here that “A drug-driver who killed the nephew of ‘Call the Midwife’ actress Linda Bassett after veering lanes without looking has been jailed for more than three years”.
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7298019/Drug-driver-killed-actress-Linda-Bassetts-nephew-41-taking-children-school-jailed.html

    Is this to be our sorry future, as our irresponsible government recklessly grants permission for the legal use of Marijuana throughout the country? Is this any way for a responsible government to build enterprise in an economy?

Comments are closed.