What is marijuana?
Cannabis (from the cannabis sativa plant) is known popularly by many names such as marijuana, weed, pot and ganja. However it is termed, serious consequences flow from possession of this substance, be it for personal use or for the purpose of trafficking. Marijuana is classed as a narcotic drug and psychotropic substance under the Dangerous Drugs Act Chap 11:25. This is the legislation that governs possession and trafficking of marijuana and other dangerous drugs in Trinidad and Tobago.
Students of the Hugh Wooding Law School Human Rights Law Clinic were each given the opportunity to write an article for the he “Law Made Simple” column in the Trinidad Guardian newspaper. These topics ranged from analysis of specific legislation, to general legal concepts. The aim of this exercise was to teach the students how to write about complex legal issues, for the average newspaper reader.
The articles were edited by the Clinic’s coordinator Mr. Jason Nathu, and will appear in the Trinidad Guardian over the next few months.
In the first of these articles, Yolander Persaud looks at Marijuana and the law in Trinidad and Tobago:
Consequences of possessing marijuana
A person found to have marijuana in his possession is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction (in the Magistrate’s Court) to a fine of $25,000 and to imprisonment for 5 years. Upon conviction on indictment (in the High Court) such person is liable to a fine of $50,000 and to imprisonment for a term over 5 years, but not exceeding 10 years.
Possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking is also a serious offence. Trafficking refers to the sale and distribution of illegal drugs. If you are found with more than one kilogramme of marijuana, this is classed as possession for the purpose of trafficking, unless you can prove otherwise. Upon conviction on indictment the fine is $100,000, or where there is evidence of the street value of the drug it will be three times the street value, whichever amount is greater, plus imprisonment for a term of 25years to life.
Being found in possession of any dangerous drug on any school premises or within 500 metres of a school is deemed possession for the purpose of trafficking, unless the contrary can be proven by the accused. ‘School premises’ includes the premises of a school, college, university or other educational institution, which may include buildings, playing fields or other premises near to or in the immediate area of the institution. The fine for this offence is $100,000 upon conviction on indictment, or where there is evidence of the street value of the drug it will be three times the street value, whichever amount is greater, in addition to imprisonment for a term of 35 years to life.
If a person occupies, controls, or is in any building, room, vehicle or any enclosure or place where marijuana is found, that person will be charged with possession, unless he can prove that it was there without his knowledge or consent. Police officers who have reasonable cause to suspect that marijuana is kept or concealed in such premises or vehicle have the power to search (day or night) the area in question. A warrant from a magistrate may be obtained to carry out this search.
The above penalties are the maximum range, and are discretionary based on the amount of the drug found in possession along with previous convictions and other considerations the Judge or Magistrate may consider on sentencing.