Guyana considers loosening marijuana laws

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Two lawyers are playing God over marijuana liberalization in Guyana

 In 2010, Patricia Spottencrow, an Oklahoma mother of four, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for selling just $31 worth of Marijuana. For many, the sentence was too harsh, especially since the convicted woman was a first time offender who had fallen on hard times.

But imagine how harder it has been for Rich Paul who had to stare down at a sentence of more than 80 years in a U.S prison for Marijuana; or Larry Duke, a Vietnam war veteran who is also serving life imprisonment for marijuana in the United States.

For many, marijuana or cannabis is a complex and divisive subject matter. After all, while at least 27 US states allow the smoking or use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes (in confined or designated circumstances), marijuana trafficking or marijuana-associated crimes are still classified as serious offences in the United States of America.

Washington State private grower
Washington State private grower

President Barack Obama had even made that somewhat clear, or probably confusingly not clear, to several Jamaicans who had raised the question while he was on a trip there earlier this year.

By all accounts, marijuana still falls into a class of herbs or controlled drugs that some believe can lead to psychopathic or abnormal behavior in most users. It is for this very reason that the United States is still holding on to a firm stance against the legalization of marijuana, primarily in the developing world. To make its position very clear, the federal court continues to dispense tough sentences (like those first mentioned in this article) for marijuana trafficking.

Outside of the United States, the penalties are even more appalling; with many facing life imprisonment or death penalty for cannabis in countries like Iran, China and Saudi Arabia.

Hence, when a Magistrate in Guyana (an English speaking country in South America) recently sentenced a Guyanese football coach, Vibert Butts, to three years in prison for possession of marijuana, some had thought that the sentence was too considerate while others thought it was too harsh.

I was rather fortunate to hear the views of many, but was more taken up by the opinion of a journalism colleague who serves as an Editorial Consultant with the Los Angeles Times.

In justifying his approval of the sentence, my colleague argued that for a football coach, the convict should have known better. He sarcastically asked me if the coach was actually coaching Guyanese youngsters to use marijuana or whether he was actually selling it to them in under the guise of his trusted position. He drew many references to similar cases including that of banned Florida Atlantic University football coach, Carl Pelini who was merely hanging out a party that had marijuana (but wasn’t involved in its use). However, he was penalized and banned.

In his view, the Guyanese coach’s association with marijuana is a rather grievous stain to the Guyanese sporting fraternity, and can only lend credence to the judicial opinion that was vested against the many Guyanese sportsmen and women that were caught smuggling narcotics to the United States and elsewhere in the past.

To support his views, he listed ten Guyanese sports personalities who were arrested over a period of time for the smuggling of drugs (including compressed marijuana) from Guyana to other countries.

As a former officer with the US Drug Enforcement Agency, and a respected opinion writer, he provided me with some additional convincing points that have almost pushed me into wanting to agree with the magistrate’s position. But I will continue to reserve my thought on that for another time.

What I do know is that it will be too treacherous for a country like Guyana to even entertain the thought of relaxing the laws governing marijuana use, without broader consultation. I personally do not hold anything against fairly pushing for the revising of a law. But right now, it will be socially comical and overtly insulting to the legislative merits of Guyanese lawmakers to abruptly bend to the demands of two men who felt that an amendment to the laws of Guyana is needed for the benefit of their client.

In essence, these learned gentlemen (who are attorneys practicing in Guyana) are asking the parliamentarians of a country that is smothered by a dirty international reputation for drug smuggling to legalize some aspects of drug consumption for the whims and fancy of a few.

So embolden are there efforts, that they had caused a presumably ill-informed or scapegoat parliament to table a motion to have the legislation revised in this regard. I can predict that from the moment that motion is allowed, the entire world media would definitely have a field day by throwing mockery and insults upon the Guyana Government at a potentially unimaginable scale.

You do not need to go to Harvard University to know that relaxing the marijuana laws in Guyana will immediately result in an increase in demand for this psychotropic herb, an increased burden on that country’s social order and its healthcare budget, manifestation of more hardened crimes, and its people having to contend with an international narco stigma among other things.

If Jamaica, which is unofficially labeled as the marijuana liberalization capital of the Caribbean has rejected such amendments, why would a narco-riddled country like Guyana entertain this sort of legislative nonsense?

The two attorneys who are probably emotional about the football coach’s conviction should unequivocally leave matters of such a sensitive nature to the Guyanese people to decide, via public consultations, rather than trying to play God over the national interest of a nation.

Moreover, the Guyanese government and all right thinking parliamentarians should save themselves from an international embarrassment by disallowing that ill-advised marijuana motion to be presented in the first place.

If you should do a simple survey of all persons convicted of robbery and other aggravated crime in Guyana, you can rest assure that at least 98 percent of them would confess to being strong users of marijuana.

I can safely say this by relying on several pieces of self researched data at my disposal; or maybe by sharing one of the many marijuana confessions that I have heard from criminals (wanting to tell their stories) in the past. If that matters, then the following is probably the mildest example that I can give now;

Back in 2006, I was chatting with a young villager who had seemed way too small framed and innocent to commit the more than thirteen robberies that he was accused of committing in Guyana. For me (at that time), I misled myself into believing that the police had arrested and charged the wrong guy. He was just 17 years old, an ardent church attendee, and very soft-spoken. But what this young man had told me thereafter sent shivers down my spine.

The one thing that I would never forget was his repeated sayings on the importance of marijuana use before a robbery. He actually told me that every time he and his “crew” has to go on a robbery, they will all “burn” large joints of marijuana (that is sometimes mixed with traces of cocaine) which helped to remove any fear of death, give them the feeling of invincibility, and made them care less about the life or interest of their victims.

Can you imagine what would happen if marijuana becomes more freely accessible to youths with a certain mindset in Guyana?

Maybe the beating of a sitting judge, robbing of the former Crime Chief of police, and the home invasion of another attorney is not enough to alert these two knights in shining armor that they are piloting a piece of legislation that is nothing more than a ticking time bomb.

Think again.