A Bequia man was on Monday given until today (Friday) to pay the court EC$150 for 44 grammes (1.55 ozs) of marijuana or spend two weeks in jail, despite changes to Drug Prevention of Misuse Act approved by Parliament in July.
Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne handed down the sentence at the Serious Offences Court in Kingstown, one week after Prime Minster Ralph Gonsalves told a press conference that lawyer Grant Connell should read the amended law.
Connell had suggested that a one-year amnesty that is part of the reform, would run parallel to the campaign for the next general elections, a point with the prime minister strongly rejected.
Gonsalves had noted that under the new law, “it’s for having in your possession 56 grammes that you do not get arrested for, you don’t have a record for, and you can’t be imprisoned for.
“… 56 grammes — two ounces; that’s what it says. The public policy is to treat that as a health and education issue,” the prime minister said.
He said that if the accused person denies possession of the marijuana which is 56 grammes or less, they would be taken to court and can be fined EC$500.
“But they still can’t lock you up for it; can’t send you to jail for it, and they can’t give you a record for it.”
He said that smoking marijuana in public is, however, prohibited.
In the extant case, Cedric Hooper of, Bequia, was fined after pleading guilty to a charge that on Sept. 20, at Port Elizabeth, Bequia, he had in his possession 44 grammes of cannabis with intent to supply it to another.
Hooper was arrested around 3:15 p.m. by Police Constable 722 Parris, who was on investigation duty, dressed in her uniform, at a bar and restaurant in Port Elizabeth.
While there, Parris noticed that Hooper, a vegetable and provision vendor, was going to the sidewalk near his stall and removing a black plastic bad and taking something from it wrapped in white paper and handing it over to persons.
The officer called the station for assistance and Police Constable 374 responded.
Parris then told Hooper of her observation and he was escorted to the area where he was seen removing the bag and when cautioned, he told the police that he sells drugs.
He removed a black bag from the area of the sidewalk and handed over to Parris.
When the officer opened the bag, she saw a number of wrapped items. She opened them and a count showed that there were 24 “bombs” of cannabis in the bag.
Parris cautioned Hooper and the officer stooped to check the area from where Hooper and removed the bag.
When she did so, Hooper pushed her, resulting in an assault charge being brought against him.
He also pleaded guilty to that charge and was ordered to pay the court EC$300 by today or spend one month in jail.
Before handing down her sentence, the chief magistrate asked Hooper if there was anything he wanted to say tot the police officer he had assaulted and he said no.
Browne further told Hooper that Parris is a very vigilante officer who will do her job and will not be concerned about people getting in her way.
She further told the defendant that maybe one day, the officer would have to come to his aid.
Hooper then told the court that he had apologised to the officer, who had told him that she was not accepting the apology.