A 25-year-old Grenadian who intended to transport 222 pounds of marijuana from Union Island to Grenada, has been jailed for one year and three months.
Marvin Albert ultimately faced four charges, the prosecution having withdrawn a charge that the Grenadian entered the state other than at a port of entry.
Albert admitted his guilt to possession of 100,788g of cannabis with intent to supply; possession for the purpose of drug trafficking; entering the state by boat and disembarking without the consent of an immigration officer; and knowingly and wilfully allowing himself to be landed as a prohibited immigrant.
The young man was caught as a result of an operation conducted by the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) on the night of January 14, leading into the morning of January 15. During the first portion of the operation the police apprehended two suspects in a vehicle in Clifton, Union Island. Then, upon receiving further information the RRU officers headed by Corporal 192 Caesar, journeyed to a waterfront area in Ashton. Upon arriving in Ashton and alighting the vehicle, PC 614 Simon approached Albert and requested a search of his person. Nothing illegal was found. The Constable took Albert back to the area that he was seen walking from, and proceeded to search the area. The strong odour of cannabis led Simon to six nylon sacks and a bag.
Albert apparently told them “Officer all the weed there is mine to take to Grenada.”
There was also a boat nearby that the Grenadian is said to have pointed out.
The coastguard assisted with transporting Albert and the drugs from Union Island to the mainland.
After an interview was done and charges laid concerning the drugs, the young man was handed over to immigration officers.
It was revealed that Albert came to these shores in June 2019. He initially entered at Union Island, but also apparently spent time in Vermont. He admitted to not clearing with the requisite authorities when he came into the country.
“It has been said on many occasions that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. That resonates true today given the circumstances surrounding this young man standing before you, Mr Marvin Albert,” his lawyer, Roderick Jones told the court in mitigation.
Jones said the defendant’s mother is a single parent to eight children. His client is the eldest and has been a breadwinner for the family. Albert’s mother is periodically employed to do washing for others but has no other form of employment.
Jones further told Chief Magistrate, Rechanne Browne that his client’s family lived in a chattel house on family land but the mother was recently told to move and she and her children are effectively homeless.
The lawyer disclosed that his client has been in St Vincent since 2019 and that he came “with the hope that he will get some employment to assist with the care of his younger siblings and his mother.”
“When he came to St Vincent he sought employment with whomever he could get employment and in many instances was doing yard maintenance. From every payment that he has collected since he has been in St Vincent, he has strived to send some money to his mother to assist in supporting his siblings.”
From his arrival in 2019 until this incident Albert did not run afoul of the law, Jones pointed out.
“So what changed? What changed is when Marvin received a call from his mother informing him that she was homeless, she had to leave the home that she would have had for how many years and she was now on the street homeless with his other siblings.”
In thinking what he could do to assist his mother, the lawyer said that his client made the decision to try and sell marijuana.
“It was a wrong decision but certainly you can understand that his intentions were good.”
He also noted that his client had co-operated with the police.
“Your honour this country of ours St Vincent and the Grenadines is a country of contradictions,” the lawyer commented. He said that recently the authorities were “boasting about the fact that St Vincent and the Grenadines is the very first country in the OECS to issue an export license for medical marijuana.”
“So we now have a country where we are prepared to reap the benefits of 1) producing marijuana and 2) selling marijuana overseas,” the counsel continued.
The system is such that, “the rich can benefit from having a medical marijuana export license, but the poor people, once they are found – jail.”
He asked the court, a court of precedent, to be on the right side of history.
“The world is looking at how we deal with instances of marijuana. We are still sending people to jail who are found in possession of marijuana on one hand but yet we are boasting about being able to issue a license to export medical marijuana on the other.”
The lawyer ended by asking the court to exercise its discretion to be as lenient as possible.
Prosecutor Sergeant Renrick Cato said that when it comes to marijuana there is a correct way and an incorrect way of doing things. He emphasised that the amount was not 22 pounds but 222 pounds of the controlled substance.
He pointed out that the sacks containing the drug were near the waterfront in Union Island and, from the words of the defendant, were to be transported out of the country to Grenada.
Cato asked that the sentence of the court reflects the gravity of the offence.
On January 19, the Chief Magistrate delivered her sentence. In doing so, she outlined how she applied the sentencing guidelines step by step.
She first had to look at the quantity of the drug, and the role that Albert played in the operations. Then a grid is used to determine the starting point of the court.
She began at 35% of the maximum sentence of seven years at the magisterial level.
The mitigating factors outweighed the aggravating and nine months were taken off from the sentence.
This left the court with one year and seven months.
The guilty plea reduced this by one third, leaving a sentence of one year, one month for possession; and one year, three months for trafficking. Both sentences are to run concurrently.
Albert was given three months imprisonment each on the immigration charges which will run concurrently.
The court issued an order for the destruction of the marijuana and a removal order for Albert at the end of his prison term.
The Grenadian was charged alongside Vincentian Michael Scott who entered a plea of ‘not guilty’ to drug possession and trafficking charges. Scott has been allowed bail in the sum of $50,000 with reporting and other conditions attached. His matter was transferred to the Biabou Magistrate’s Court for today Friday, January 21.