“Government Must Decriminalize Ganja Spliff now” says Grange

Release Date: 
Thursday, June 5, 2014 - 16:15

Opposition Spokesperson on Youth, Culture and Entertainment, Olivia “Babsy” Grange, has called on the government to amend legislation now to decriminialzie possession of small amounts of ganja and to expunge the records of those persons, including artistes, who have been criminalized over the years because they were found in possession of a “spliff”.

Ms Grange said that during recent discussions with a number of individuals in the music industry as well as young persons from various communities on different matters affecting them, she had again come face to face with the terrible fact of how many lives are being affected by the Government’s delay in decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Ms. Grange said that the former administration had already started the process.  She said “A Cabinet decision had been taken and a Ministry Paper tabled in Parliament proposing to, through legislation, decriminalize possession of small amounts, and to expunge records of those persons previously convicted of such possession.  After almost 3 years in office, when public and international attitudes have become even more supportive of the idea, the present administration continues to drag its feet.”

Ms Grange continued “While the government delays in making changes to legislation, each week hundreds are locked up, prosecuted and fingerprinted for what is in essence, a victimless crime. They are left with criminal records which define and constrain their entire potential.

“The horrible irony is that when they can’t get jobs, it adds to rising levels of unemployment and makes them even more susceptible to engaging in criminal activities.”  She said the time had long come to change that.

Ms. Grange said she understood that Magistrates have a discretion regarding fingerprinting, and asked whether in these changing times, and pending new legislation, they might not apply a different context when deciding whether or not to fingerprint individuals for possession of small amounts of ganja.

She also said “My focus in urging the government to act now, is on the damage to the potential of young persons, most of whom are poor and from the inner cities.  We must take every opportunity to reduce their marginalization, and to create opportunities for employment.  This issue also specifically affects young artistes who by reason of being caught with a single spliff find themselves unable to get a visa to travel and grow their careers. ”

She said she was calling for the government to act now in this contractionary economic situation to protect young people from having their potential destroyed every week

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