Police could exercise a little more restraint – PM
January 24, 2020

Police could exercise a little more restraint – PM

Police officers who destroyed a marijuana field in Richmond Vale last week, were in fact enforcing the laws of the land as it relates to marijuana cultivation and possession.

While Prime Minister Dr Gonsalves acknowledges this, he noted that his government has a policy as it relates to the current laws, given that new laws concerning marijuana, which are yet to be proclaimed, have been passed.

“The law is the law as it has been, simply because the provisions for changes have not yet been proclaimed. And the reason why we haven’t had the proclamation is because … there are a number of administrative things which we have to put in place…,” Gonsalves said, while answering a question posed at a press conference on Tuesday.

Parliament passed new laws last year in relation to marijuana possession and cultivation in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), as the country prepares to venture into the medicinal cannabis industry.

One law provided for licences to be granted for the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes and another allowed for persons to have up to 56 grammes of marijuana in their possession without being arrested, jailed or get a police record. It will however be a ticket able offence.

There is also expected to be an amnesty period for traditional marijuana farmers but that period has yet to be announced.

Gonsalves, on Tuesday, said that all administrative things should be in place “pretty soon” so that the new laws can be proclaimed.

But he said that he has, in the past, asked commissioners of police “not to use prosecutorial resources, not to use the police to lock up fellas for a spliff on the block, behind their grandmother house, I have said that over and over”.

The marijuana field destroyed last week in the North Leeward community belonged to Hamilton Edwards, who told SEARCHLIGHT that he received permission to plant marijuana and he took the opportunity because he had no other income.

Edwards, who said his license to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes is currently being processed, added that he has invested over EC$8000 into the project and had about 60 pounds of marijuana stored.

“Before the new law was passed, I didn’t ask in that regard (restraint in cutting down a marijuana field) because I was dealing with the simple possession (of marijuana). But since the law was passed and an amnesty is in the offing, I would expect that the police would also exercise greater restraint in that regard because an amnesty is coming” the Prime Minister said on Tuesday.

He said it is true that the police officers who destroyed the marijuana field at Richmond Vale were not acting outside the laws of the country.

“…but it doesn’t stop there because in the same way that hitherto before the policy was announced in the manner in which we announced it in Parliament and passed laws, though not yet proclaimed and therefore not yet operational, there was a prosecutorial discretion used by the police not to lock up somebody who had a spliff and if a policeman went and did it, he wasn’t doing it contrary to the law, but his superior would say to him ‘why you bother with that?’,” Gonsalves, the minister with responsibility for national security, said.

He also acknowledged that policy is not higher than law but said laws must be enforced with common sense.