GEORGETOWN, Guyana (Thursday, January 28, 2021) — Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, has released the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) (Amendment) Bill 2021, which will see persons, in possession of 15 grams of cannabis or less, sentenced to counselling.
“Under the new subsection (2A), the possession of a quantity of cannabis or any substance held out to be cannabis, which does not exceed fifteen grams, is punishable by mandatory counselling for a period to be determined by the counsellor,” the bill reads.
Currently, possession of 15 grams, or less, could attract a trafficking charge, with a prison sentence, between three to five years, and a fine of no less than $30,000. The Bill makes having up to 15 grams of cannabis an offence of simple possession.
An amount over 15 grams, but no more than 30 grams, will attract community service, including employment in a public work, under the Extra-Mural Work Act, for a maximum of six months.
“Public work is defined, by section 2 of the Extra-Mural Work Regulations, Reg. 8 of 1998, to include any work on State or government land or any property belonging to, or rented or leased to the State, or with the permission of a local government authority, on any land or any other property belonging to, or rented or leased to, the local government authority.”
The bill also increases the quantity of cannabis that would automatically attract a trafficking charge, from 15 grams to more than 30 grams.
It also removes the fine and prison term for smoking, inhaling, sniffing, or otherwise using cannabis or for being found in a place used for that purpose, or being the owner, occupier, or concerned in the management of any place used for preparation of cannabis for that purpose.
However, while the clause removes the fine and jail time for smoking cannabis in places, where cigarette smoking is also banned, it imposes a $10,000 fine for a first offence and a $20,000 penalty for a second and subsequent offences.
The Bill also caters for those instances, where an offender may refuse to consent or breach an order of mandatory counselling or community service. The amended Act would grant the court the discretion to order the offender to pay a fine of $250,000, where it sees fit.
The amendments are meant to reduce the burden on the justice system, and also covers issues like recidivism and prison overcrowding. This would not only save the State money, but would also help to keep families together and rebuild communities affected and disadvantaged by the incarceration of persons, especially youth.