Ganja man walks free on charges of possession
A man who said he has smoked marijuana since he was six years old, who got certification in training from the Medicinal Cannabis Authority (MCA) and was supported by activist Junior ‘Spirit’ Cottle in court, was acquitted on November 25 for possession of 16 pounds of cannabis with intent to supply.
At the Serious Offences Court (SOC) last Thursday, Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne ruled that it would be “unsafe” to convict him as “even from the outset there is an element of doubt.”
“It is not the defence’s case that we have to test, we have to make sure that we have proven all our elements beyond reasonable doubt,” she told the prosecution, “and there are some things which kind of throw some doubt and issues in the works: we have a certificate, we have amnesty regulations and we have even what transpired during the whole operation. What was shown, whether this warrant was shown, how that was conducted, the stories vary…”.
She reiterated that it is the prosecution which has to prove the elements of the charge, “that they have dotted all their i’s and crossed all their t’s.”
Therefore, 59-year-old Kevin Cyrus who had numerous court dates while he went through the trial for his alleged having 7355g of cannabis in his possession on 19th March 2021 at Long Wall, Kingstown, was a free man.
He was all smiles when he emerged from the precincts of the court displaying his certificate from the MCA and voicing his “respect” to his lawyer, Grant Connell.
He said that it has been since March “they were fighting me with this”, but throughout his many visits “I never change my clothes, but little do they know I change my watch. Every time I come to court I come to court with a different watch.”
When asked if he is fully involved in the medicinal cannabis industry now, he responded, “I’m fully looking for the future for the whole future. And I hold no grudge for nobody, no police, nobody because I get my justice in the court where it was supposed to be.”
It had been the prosecution’s case that a party of Rapid Response Unit (RRU) personnel armed with a search warrant for firearm, ammunition and controlled drugs, went to Cyrus’ shop on the morning in question. While searching the shop they said they found packaged marijuana in a clothes bag, and some marijuana in bottles.
The police said he had told them it was his, and that he bought the cannabis to sell it.
However, when the defendant testified in court he produced his certificate, which he said he had shown to the police. He said that he was proud of going ‘legal’.
Cyrus explained that he planted the drug in Larikai, an area on the Leeward side where “all the good marijuana” plants are.
He said he was told he could secure the marijuana at his premises because there was no Lab at the time; it was being built. He said the person who had told him this was Junior ‘Spirit’ Cottle, the co-ordinator, who said he could keep the cannabis until it could be taken to the Association. The accused man confirmed that the amnesty was also ongoing when this arrangement was made.
The defendant told Prosecutor Sergeant Renrick Cato that “I’m just trying to be legal” as during the past 50 years he’s been running, and ducking. He said that’s why he wasn’t afraid of the court matter.
The prosecution questioned him as to whether he had to inform the police when he was moving the marijuana from his farm. Cyrus replied that he did it through the Association; he worked with the co-ordinator.
As it relates to what the officers said he said that day, the defendant informed the court that “them officer did lie, straight up.”
He was asked why the cannabis was wrapped the way it was and responded that it had to be wrapped that way to be transported. Cyrus said he took it on public transportation.
The prosecutor grilled Cyrus about whether the certificate gives him the authority to have marijuana at his premises for sale. The defendant replied that it gives him authority to have it for testing.
Junior Cottle also took the stand for the defence, and said that he knew Cyrus for many years as a traditional cultivator. Cottle explained that he is employed with the MCA and his role is to facilitate the transition of persons involved in growing cannabis illegally to a legal framework. He testified that he remembered that some time in February, Cyrus told him he had some cannabis growing and he would like to know what to do. Cottle said he told Cyrus that the law allows him to store it at his residence, and that he will check on the authorities and at the appropriate time they will come and look at it.
Cottle told the prosecution that a person with a certificate could have marijuana in their home for the purpose of selling, but to a licensed purchaser.
In final submissions before the magistrate the prosecution emphasised that the certificate the defendant had did not give him the authority to have marijuana in his home for sale. He said that Cyrus never informed the police at any point that he had the drug.
Connell argued that if the prosecution’s case is to be believed that the cannabis was to be sold, his client still fell under the Cannabis Cultivation Amnesty regulations 2020, as “it must be a certified buyer.”
The counsel questioned “what else is a Vincentian to do who has been involved in the marijuana industry? One who has been in the trenches, one who has kept marijuana alive so that the Christopher Columbus’ of ganga could come and surface.”
“This man tells you he been smoking since he six. He has not removed himself from the marijuana, been there about 50 years and now he gets a certificate from the authority, the law, that tells him ‘look, bring in your cannabis’, the prosecutor wants this court to believe that this man should go up to Larikai on a highway and drive marijuana out of Larikai to Kingstown with police escort.”
The attorney said that his client had the legal authority to possess cannabis.
He asked the magistrate to find his client not guilty “because he has been in possession of cannabis but he is authorised by the law so to” do.