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EDITORIAL - Nonsense to arrest for a spliff

Published:Monday | August 11, 2014 | 8:00 AM

The attorney general, Patrick Atkinson, must move with dispatch to determine, as the justice minister, Mark Golding, suggests, whether the police can proceed by issuing summonses to, rather than arresting, persons who are to be prosecuted for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The idea makes sense in the face of the Government's declared policy to decriminalise ganja use, but has added urgency following last week's death, apparently the result of a severe beating while in a Montego Bay police lock-up, of Mario Deane, who was arrested for a ganja cigarette.

Who beat Mr Deane - a matter being investigated - is beyond the point at this time. He should not have been in jail awaiting bail in the first place for an offence that, fundamentally, is wasteful of law-enforcement and judicial time and resources. Nor should the many thousands of young men, who are luckier than Mr Deane for having come through alive but with life-blighting criminal records.

So, until Parliament passes the law allowing for the expungement of the criminal records of people convicted for possession of the benchmark amount of ganja and for the ticketing of persons accused of the offence, having persons attend court by summons, rather than enforcing arrests, seems a reasonable compromise.

Alternatively, the acting police chief, Glenmore Hinds, might instruct his officers to employ greater discretion, on the side of leniency, in their engagement with persons in possession of ganja falling within the projected own-use limits.


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