Gov't to move minor ganja cases to petty sessions courts
Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
IN A groundbreaking move to reduce the heavy backlog of cases before the Resident Magistrates' (RM) Court, the Andrew Holness administration has set in motion plans to transfer cases involving the possession of small amounts of ganja to the petty session courts.
This means that if a person is arrested for a ganja 'spliff' or about eight ounces of the weed, the matter is likely to be sent to the petty sessions court for adjudication.
However, where persons "flagrantly and indiscriminately" smoke or use ganja in public spaces those cases would automatically be referred to the Resident Magistrate's Court.
In addition, if an accused pleads not guilty the case will also be sent to the RM court for hearing and disposal.
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, who made the announcement yesterday in a statement to Parliament, said this policy decision did not mean that the Government was softening its stance against the illegal substance.
"This proposal does not represent a softening of this Government's position on ganja but rather a calculated attempt at increasing efficiencies in the prosecution and treatment of drug abuse offenders," he said.
According to Chuck, the administration would have to take steps to amend the Justice of the Peace Jurisdiction Act, the Dangerous Drugs Act and the Drug Court (Treatment and Rehabilitation of Offenders) Act to facilitate the implementation of the proposal.
The justice minister told his fellow lawmakers that the proposed movement of cases involving the possession of small amounts of ganja to petty session court was not a signal that the Government was advocating the decriminalisation of the use of ganja.
"My Government intends to continue to hold steadfast to the hard line it has taken against the use of illegal substances and the nefarious and criminal activities associated with it such as drug trafficking," Chuck said.