A resident of Green Hill has been fined over $15,000 for having cannabis in his possession despite having a license that allows him to have significant quantities of the drug to be sold under certain conditions.
Vincentian Romaul Benn and Colombian Martin Alonso Velez Velasquex appeared before Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne at the Serious Offences Court on September 4 to answer to the charge that on July 1, 2023 they had in their possession 68 lbs of cannabis with intent to supply to another.
This was the second time the men were appearing before the court and although they entered a not guilty plea at their last appearance, Benn pleaded guilty at this hearing.
According to the facts, police had been investigating several reports of burglary in the area. The officers went to Benn’s home armed with a search warrant. Benn opened the door to the officers and consented to the search.
Benn pointed out a bedroom and while searching a clothes closet in that room, an officer saw six taped brown packages. After the officer showed the defendant, he saw loose material resembling that of cannabis.
Benn told the officers, “The cannabis is mine. He has nothing to do with it.” The offence of possession of controlled drug was then pointed out to Benn.
Benn’s lawyer Grant Connell informed the court that the drug is medical cannabis, noting that the drug was not concealed in a sophisticated manner. He said that Benn has genuine remorse for his actions and he did not blame anyone for what he has done.
Connell then presented the court with a certificate showing a licence that allows its holder to have significant quantities of the drug to sell to investors.
The lawyer then called an agent to the witness stand who validated Connell’s statements.
The agent said that the traditional cultivator would inform the investor that they have cannabis, and the police would escort the drug to be tested and to an area to be sold.
He added that one pound of weed can be valued between EC$200-EC$300 or US$50 per pound.
Connell commented that officers seem “to not understand the fine workings of the new law.”
The magistrate referred to the sentencing guidelines and placed the offence into category three. He began with a fine of $27,400.
There were no aggravating factors of the offence.
Mitigating of the offence was that Benn accepted responsibility for his actions and there was a lack of sophistication in the concealment of the drug.
When the aggravating and the mitigating factors were weighed against each other, the mitigating factors exceeded the aggravating which resulted in $2000 being deducted from the sentence.
When the aggravating factors of the offender were considered, none were found as Prosecutor Renrick Cato gave no antecedents on Benn’s character. Mitigating of him was that he has had no previous convictions and he assisted the authorities. As a result, another $2000 was deducted from his fine.
The court then considered his guilty plea and offered him a one-third discount of $7816.66 resulting in a final fine of $15, 584.34 with $5000 to be paid within an hour of the sentence or 6 months imprisonment, and the balance, which amounted to $10,083 must be paid by November 10 or 12 months imprisonment.
The prosecution withdrew its case against Velasquez. He will however be deported to his native Colombia.