Front Page
April 22, 2005

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has distanced himself from statements made by Vincentian Magistrate Carlyle Dougan QC who last week aroused a wave of comment across the region with his call for the decriminalization of ganja.

Dr. Ralph Gonsalves made his government’s position clear in an exclusive interview with the Searchlight after last Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting. {{more}}

He said: “I expect the law to be followed by those who have reason to apply the law.”

Dr. Gonsalves was also dismissive of the Magistrate Dougan’s suggestion that government exports marijuana to Holland.

“That is not the policy of this government. And we do not intend to do such thing,” he asserted.

Dr. Gonsalves added: “This government has an excellent track record of co-operating internationally and regionally against trafficking of marijuana.”

He was noticeably cagey in his assessment of Dougan’s statements. “I do not know if the report

in the newspaper is accurate. If it is in fact accurate, the statements taken as a whole are statements which cannot be endorsed by the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.

When questioned as to his sympathetic tendencies towards the Rastafarian movement in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Prime Minister responded: “I have made it plain to the Rastafarian, the Ancient Order of the Nyahbinghi, that I support every single aspect of their social policy, save and except, the decriminalisation of ganja.”

He noted that the government, neither did the whole community support marijuana decriminalization.

He asserted that he expected the law to be followed by those who have reason to apply the law.

“Magistrates and Judges have a certain range of discretion in applying penalties under the law,” he said.

The Prime Minister said he preferred to leave matters of the law “for the judiciary.”

Asked about eradication exercises, which saw the destruction of plantations on hillsides in the interior mountain range, Dr. Gonsalves remarked that the government and the United States “have not been engaged in any joint exercise.”

He went on: “The Police Force in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have been involving themselves in the pulling up and burning of ganja trees.”

He added that there have been no joint exercises with the Regional Security System.