A 25-year-old caught attempting to catch a flight to Barbados with cannabis in his baggage, is revealed to have hidden some of the drug in Tortillaz, CRIX, and Mac n Cheese packages.
Shaquille King, an artiste from Arnos Vale/Walveroo, was caught at the Argyle International Airport (AIA) on Sunday, May 2, and subsequently charged with possession of six and a half pounds(2943g) of cannabis with intent to supply to another, having it in his possession for the purpose of drug trafficking, and that he did attempt to export the controlled substance.
The facts in the matter, as prepared by the police, are that at 11:30am on that Sunday, Police Constable (PC) 243 Douglas was called to the security scanning checkpoint of the airport. On his arrival at the checkpoint, the senior aviation security officer handed over two transparent wrapped packages containing cannabis to Douglas, and pointed out King.
The officer approached and spoke with King, and the young man disclosed: “I going on Barbados on vacation was for me to smoke over there.”
It was confirmed by his boarding pass that his destination was in fact Barbados. His name and other details were confirmed through his Vincentian passport.
King was then led to an office in the Arrivals section of the airport, his luggage retrieved from the plane, and handed over to PC Douglas. When asked if he had anything illegal to declare in the suitcase, King informed that he had “weed.”
Opening and searching the suitcase, the officer found snacks and clothing.
The first thing to be opened, a CRIX packet, revealed three transparent wrapped packages of Marijuana. King explained that the ‘weed’ was for him and his brothers to smoke. Two more CRIX packages contained three and four similar packages; while a ‘Tortillaz’ chip packet contained five; a ‘Cheese Stiks’ packet housed four, and a Swiss Mac n Cheese box was found to have one package.
As for clothes, one packet of cannabis was found in the back pocket of a pair of pants, and six ‘weed’ packages were folded into a multicoloured sheet.
Two other packets were unearthed from the suitcase.
One of the factors the court should consider as mitigating, the young man’s lawyer Grant Connell submitted, was the lack of sophistication of the crime, and the nature of the concealment of the ‘ganja’.
In looking “…at the packaging of it, gives a whole new meaning to ‘Marijuana munchies’,” the counsel commented at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court (KMC) on Tuesday, May 4.
“…You will see some of the…some of it…rolled in a ‘ganja dumpling’” Connell said, about the exhibit which was present in court. Further positing “…It’s really at variance with the normal…”
The defense counsel also spoke on the fact that his client had no previous convictions at all before this attempt, that he accepted his guilt at the first opportunity, co-operated with the police and is remorseful.
The sole aggravating factor, Connell acknowledged, would have been that the defendant attempted to take the controlled substance through the airport.
The monetary value of the marijuana is an important factor in considering sentencing, and any fine imposed could be three times the value of the drug, according to the Act. Connell pointed out that while the courts use a value of $500 to $700 a pound, a recent affidavit he submitted by Junior ‘Spirit’ Cottle contends that it is $200 to $250 a pound. On the other hand, the lawyer contrasted that to his knowledge the value of the marijuana used for medicinal purposes Is $50 a pound. He noted therefore that we live in a society where those in possession of the controlled substance “..legally under the so-called medical marijuana, pay $50 a pound”, while when they face jail, the value is ten times that.
“…We humbly ask the court to impose a fine that the young man would be able to pay,” and to accept the lower value to the drug, the lawyer said.
Connell had also mentioned the defendant’s youth and naivety, and stated that he had played a lessor role in the crime.
However, prosecutor sergeant Renrick Cato commented, “They(the drugs) were destined for Barbados, and when (the defendant) was first cautioned, that’s what he said, he said ‘They are for me and my brothers to smoke’. He knew who gave it to him, he knew where they were going…”
The prosecutor stated that the Commissioner of Police had sent something some years ago outlining the price of Marijuana as $500 a pound.
Cannabis, in small amounts, usually attracts a reasonable fine from the courts, and the prosecutor noted, “It would have been a much different situation if this amount was found on the defendant within the community.”
“But to go through the airport your honour I think that sets aside a difference in sentencing…,” with the presence of the charges of drug trafficking and export.
The defense counsel replied to the submission on the value, reiterating that the prosecutor’s value mentioned was some years ago.
“…We live on an island, everybody hear and see and know the reality. So why should the poor man suffer only when he comes to court and not benefit outside…,” the attorney queried.
Using the higher value, a fine might be approaching $9000 on the highest end, he said.
“…This would be harsh and unconscionable,” the counsel indicated.
His client erred, he expressed, “…If the suitcase got past the security at the AIA and went on to the plane, he can’t be blamed for that. So to put that as an aggravating factor for him, that’s an aggravating factor for AIA.”
The senior magistrate stated that he would take time to do research and consider the arguments on either side of the bar. The sentencing was initially fixed for Friday, May 7, but on the request that the submissions be put in writing, the matter has been adjourned to this Friday, May 14 for sentencing.