The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. The Honorable Natalio Wheatley is fighting for prisoners incarcerated for Marijuana-related crimes to be expunged, under the proposed Marijuana Legislation. The announcement was made earlier today via an exclusive 45-minute interview with 284 Media on Facebook.
Minister Wheatley said “we have taken a decision as a government that persons should not be locked up in jail for the use of marijuana. It’s an issue of social justice so we want to stop the persecution of persons who are using the plant, a plant where persons all over the world see medical benefits. We’ve put forward an expungement clause, within the legislation to wipe the record clean of person’s subject to a few conditions, like if they weren’t selling to minors, or they weren’t involved in other criminal activities”
The proposed amendment of the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) (Amendment) Act, 2020, which is still up for debate at Government level states:
28D Expungement of a criminal record shall include all official records of arrest, plea, trial conviction, supervision or expungement.
28E (1) No liability or action shall lie against the Government, her agents or employees for any loss or damage whatsoever, arising as the result of the amendments made herein.
(2) For greater certainty, no conviction vacated pursuant to this Act shall serve as the basis for damages for time unjustly served.”.
However, the Minister announced some resistance by some arms of the Government as it relates to exoneration.
He said “now, I have to tell you that, that’s been a bit controversial with some sections of the Government, particularly, those responsible for law enforcement and security. So there may be some issues in terms of cleaning the records”
“But I have to say to you, that, I’m pushing hard for it. The bill has been introduced to the House of Assembly. It was introduced last Friday for the first reading and this Friday we will have the debate, and we’ll have the committee stage,” the overseeing Minister said.
ONE GRAM PER PERSON PERMITTED
The Minister is also pushing for an amendment for the drug use bill will allow for the personal possession of small amounts of marijuana for medical use. Section 5 of the proposed amendment states;
(1) In accordance with the provisions of this Act, a person, who is not a minor, may possess up to one (1) gramme of medicinal cannabis for medicinal or therapeutic use.
(2) Upon completion of a Self-Declaration Form prescribed by the Authority in accordance with section 22(2), a person, who is not a minor, may possess greater than one 1 gramme of medicinal cannabis but less than 50 grammes or 10 grammes of cannabis resin for medicinal or therapeutic use.
Once amended, the Minister “persons will not be prosecuted for maybe like one gram of marijuana, and one gram can make about three spliffs, we won’t prosecute persons for that.”
“But if person’s have bigger amounts than that and they don’t go through the correct process, for being able to possess the marijuana due to some kind of medical ailment, then there are penalties for that and we encourage persons to be in compliance with the law,” he said.
While Honorable Wheatley intends to ensure that persons are no longer incarcerated for certain Marijuana-related crimes, he expressed, “this bill will tightly regulate the use of marijuana and it’s going to be for the medical purposes as opposed to the recreational purposes that some persons use it for.”
“It is my personal opinion that it’s a social injustice to prosecute persons for something that has been used for tens of thousands of years. This was a well-known, well used plant right up until 1936 when it was criminalized in the United States,” he said.
The Minister further expounded on the fact that there is archaeological evidence to prove that Chinese emperors, Egyptian rulers and Queen Victoria, among many other notables, used Marijuana for various health-related reasons.
He said “now is the time for action, we’ve debated Marijuana for some time in every corner of society across the globe, and now we have to act.”
“If we delay any further, we’re going to lose ground”, he said in comparison to many countries in the region already embracing the industry as a viable option.
The bill is set to receive its third and fourth reading in the House of Assembly on Friday June, 26th, 2020.
You are encouraged to review the full interview with Honorable Natalio Wheatley by on this link.