With just two days left in this current year it seems that the ganja amnesty law which was passed one year ago will kick in during 2020 – the year of general elections.
This, no doubt, raises the question of whether marijuana decriminalization advocate Grant Connell, a lawyer by profession, was right when he said that the ganja amnesty would be kicking in time for the general elections campaign.
“I, Grant Connell, propose that it is going to start in January and run one year at the end of which year – with much money income,” he told the Serious Offences Court in September, this year, when he represented two men on marijuana possession charges.
Connell invited lawyer Carlos James, who was in court seated at the bar table, to elaborate.
James, a government senator and ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) candidate for North Leeward, laughed but did not take up Connell’s suggestion.
The men, 56-year old Irwin Thomas and 46-year-old Alvin Williams of Questelles were arrested and charged with possession of 4,540 grammes (10lbs) and possession of 1,816 grammes (4lbs) of cannabis with intent to supply, respectively. They pleaded guilty then to the charges.
Connell told the court that if the amnesty law was in effect his clients could have benefitted.
At a press conference in September, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said that the ganja amnesty law kicks in when the traditional cultivators of marijuana receive their license to grow marijuana for medicinal purpose and they make an application for the amnesty. “The Amnesty law kicks in when people who are cultivating – and there are traditional cultivators who’ve received licenses, both individually and in group – when they get those licenses and they start.
They make the application for the amnesty – that’s when the amnesty kicks in.
They make the application for the amnesty – that’s when the amnesty kicks in. The fact that a man grow weed, they catch him at sea with 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 pounds the amnesty don’t apply to that. How the amnesty apply to that?” Prime Minister Gonsalves said then.
“Then I see comments about if the law had been put in place this wouldn’t have this before the court,” he said in reference to Connell’s comment that had the amnesty law been operational, two of his clients who were recently arrested and charged. “It’s 56 grammes… 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. Not ten pounds nor four pounds. Fifty-six grammes – two ounces – that’s what it says,” Prime Minister Gonsalves said. “The public policy there is to treat that as a health and educational issue. And, under the International Convention, it is permissible to proceed like we are proceeding,” the Prime Minister further stated.
Gonsalves said that if the reports on what Connell said in court were accurate then the first thing he would suggest is that he reads the law because he was speaking as though he did not read “the laws which are being proposed.”
“And when yo’ cross the line with me politically and say – talk what you want in the court house but when you go and say that the law would only become operational when election near, well then Grant you talking foolishness, stupidness, because we have announced how we are dealing with this thing. When you leave the law and you come into politics, you come into my zone. Talk what you want to talk and I may or may not respond. But you come over here; you know that you may invite a response from me,” Dr Gonsalves said.
Prime Minister Gonsalves then said that he liked Connell as a young who does good work to defend people in court, including the poor. He, however, added: “But don’t speak in a manner which doesn’t reflect accurately the situation.
In November, Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar said no date was set for the ganja amnesty law becoming operational and so there was no time period for its duration.
On December 24th, Prime Minister Gonsalves said he was hoping the amnesty would start shortly.
General elections are constitutionally due by the end of March 2021 but Prime Minister Gonsalves has already stated that he would not utilize the 90-day window period which allows for postponement due to emergency, therefore the elections will be held by December, this year.
It is already anticipated that election campaign activities will intensify early in the new year.