Zero tolerance on ganja clogs up courts

| 10/09/2015 | 50 Comments

CNS viewpointCNS Point of View: The Cayman Islands judicial system is being clogged up with ganja cases where there is no other criminality involved, which could easily be dealt with via fixed penalties if government was to relax the current zero tolerance on the drug and the criminalisation of consumption. Over a three-week period between 17 August and 4 September, the Summary Court dealt with more than 40 different individuals who were charged with consumption and possession of small quantities of ganja but no other crimes.

Based on rough calculations and the published figures for criminal cases going through the courts each year, the Summary Court is handling around 30 individual defendants each week and it is clear a significant percentage of those cases could be dealt with administratively if government was to move to an alternative fixed citation system, thereby removing some 40% of the people who end up in the dock.

Although the court documents and cases reveal that a number of defendants charged with possession and consumption of ganja are also charged with other petty and serious crimes, in a brief but non-scientific assessment of the ganja cases going through the courts over the last three weeks, CNS identify 42 individuals who came before magistrates based purely on consumption or possession charges. We did not count any defendants charged while on remand or any that were charged with traffic or other petty offences. The headcount included separate individuals who were in court for ganja-related offences only, where no charges of supply were involved.

While Cayman does have a drug court, this is designed to address problems faced by addicts and people who are committing acquisitive or other related offences where offenders can avoid a criminal record, there are hundreds of Caymanians who carry a criminal record because of a single ganja conviction.

Alongside the problems this causes for otherwise law-abiding people travelling to the United States and their ability to get work it also costs the public persons thousands of dollars each year to steer such cases through the courts.

From the now infamous 2008 case of primary school teacher Marius Voiculescu, who was inexplicably hounded as a result of the zero-tolerance policy relating to the possession of a half-smoked spliff that went to the Court of Appeal twice before an acquittal was upheld in 2010, to the common cases that go through the courts where ganja users admit their transgressions and pay the fines, the taxpayer is footing the bill for a policy that appears to have had no impact at all on reducing local drug use.

In the recently published report by Claire Wetton, the criminal justice advisor does not single out ganja but makes it clear that the Cayman criminal justice system is missing out an alternative ways of addressing minor offences and the lack of an out of court disposal system that would allow for cases of ganja possession to be dealt with in a way that would see otherwise lawful individuals not facing criminal charges and a considerable reduction to the public purse.

Although it is hard to calculate the cost to the local taxpayer, the process involved is the same as any other crime. Following an arrest, the offender is taken to a police station and booked in. They will be held in a cell, the paperwork is generated and, depending on a number of factors, the individual will be remained for a certain period before being released on police bail while tests are conducted. The file is generated and sent to the director of public prosecutions, where crown counsel looks at the file and a direction is made to charge. Police then call back the person and make the charges and the case goes to court. After a one or more appearances, the individual either pleads guilty and pays the fine or denies the charges, goes to trial and the magistrate decides their fate.

As Cayman’s neighbour Jamaica moves towards becoming the regional leader in the medical use of ganja and as the US, the once world leader in the war on drugs, recognises the failings in that policy and begins to adopt increasingly relaxed laws regarding ganja, Cayman is clinging to an outdated policy towards the drug’s use that is evidently costing everyone more than it needs to.

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Category: Courts, Crime, Viewpoint

Comments (50)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    It is actually becoming fairly common knowledge that the illegalization of marijuana worldwide was an act of the pharmacutical elite of our world in a pitiful but probably effective means of monopolizing the many medicinal values of the herb. Light up Cayman. Just be wary of the cops who in fact have no real idea why they’re hunting you down.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Cayman Court system is already a huge waste of time for everyone with many of these minor offenses having to go to court when there could just be a fine. Just like alcohol, the police can and will not stop the use of ganja “PERIOD”. There is far too much supply and demand for ganja around the world, so why fight it…just legalize it! Does cannabis not yield seeds? Is it not a natural plant with many other uses other than recreational? Aside from that, who are we to argue with what is written in scripture….”and it was so”.

    Genesis 1:29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30- and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.…


  3. Anonymous says:

    CNS: Can you please report on and ask for comment from Baines on the drugs that RCIPS reported stolen from its own “secured” evidence room at GT Police Station?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Legalise it, I will advertise it.

  5. No Ganja Bobo says:

    Why in the hell do we need to de-criminalize marijuana? The stuff smells a crack whore’s crotch, it kills brain cells, turns idiots into mindless zombies and causes domestic disputes. Also, if everyone seems to believe that holding on to our beliefs means that we’re behind the rest of the world, then so be it. If the trend of the day is for everyone to jump off a bridge, should Cayman build a bridge so that we can all be trendy?

    What we really need to focus on is de-criminalizing common sense because it’s an endangered species!

    • Anonymous says:

      If anyone would benefit from a good joint it would be this poster.

    • Anonymous says:

      Bobo, if you know what a crack whores crotch smells like you need to get treated for many things. Understanding that this issue is not going away and needs a common sense approach for non hardened users would help you.

    • Anonymous says:

      Have you had any lately? You seem in need of good sex or some good herb! #chill

    • Anonymous says:

      Clearly you have been in some truly unpleasant places. Less said bout that the better.

      But you must be basing your rather warped views on the dropouts who lime in your district rather than the rest of us surrounding you who hold professional and responsible jobs, and are completely law abiding citizens other than liking a lil spliff now and then. But unlike the dropouts, you don’t know we do it. We keep it on the downlow for fear of draconian criminal penalties and the potential to ruin our entire careers. I am talking bout your doctors, lawyers, police, politicians, lawyers, accountants, care workers, journalist, civil servants.

      More violence, stabbings, domestic disputes and people walking and driving round like zombies in Cayman is down to alcohol than anything else.

      Do you drink?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Agree with most others here. We need to legalize, or at least decriminalize, smaller quantities of marijuana for personal use. This current system is long outdated!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Being caught with a little bit of weed is akin to double parking. We should not waste our duty dollars on such trivial offences. Our funds would be better spent on more useful endevours, like educating our youth. It is astounding how backwards we are. BTW if you think those old guard voters will get you reelected you are wrong.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Let the people dem smoke a liikle weed. I’ll organize a “smoke out”at the courthouse for this upcomjng Saturday, just make sure there is an iceceream truck to help with the munchies around noon.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The amount of paper work involved in the processing of a person arrested for a spliff out weighs the penalty handed down by the court. Time to wake up.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agree. The expats found with ganja should be immediately deported.

      • Anonymous says:

        and any local found with ganja should be stoned to death

        • Anonymous says:

          No they should not. They did not lie on their immigration applications, unlike any expat found with ganja, so they may actually have committed a lesser crime than the expats.

          Anyway, chances are that anyone, Caymanian or Expatriate, using ganja with frequency are stoning themselves to death, or unemployment, or failing education. They even call themselves stoners. Cool, Dude?

          • Anonymous says:

            Customs form actually, which everyone can lie on, Caymanians and Expats alike. I go through the airport a lot and its not (in general) the expats that get stopped and charged. They learned long ago (for the most part) never to screw with Customs or immigration. A few Caymanians just hope that they have a friend on shift to get through without hassle.

          • Anonymous says:

            I didn’t lie at the time I signed, I got itfrom a local on the beach afterwards…

        • Anonymous says:

          If they’re found with ganja they’re probably already stoned.

  10. Anonymous says:

    To be honest which ever politician runs next election supporting decriminalization/ legalization or marijuana will get the majority of the votes.

    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman insists on fighting battles the rest of the world have resolved decades ago. Gay rights, ganga, minimum wage etc, etc. Instead of taking advantage of lessons learned and money spent and taking a cue from other countries that have been there, done that – Cayman wants to stand it’s ground with archaic laws and thinking. Countries with populations in the millions have already sorted this stuff out. Why in the hell does a country with 55,000 people want to rehash every little debate? I could see if it was 1950 and we had no clue what the rest of the world was doing, but it’s not. How many people have heard someone comment that Cayman is 25 years behind the rest of the world? We need a new generation of leaders to bring Cayman into the 21st century.

      • Anonymous says:

        Way to go Cayman, gamble out half the country’s treasury while being under oath to serve and protect your country and walk out of court scot free. Whatever you do God forbid you should get caught enjoying a good, relaxing, harmless puff of mother nature. Really one would think the courts would be using their precious time addressing the very many Auditor General reports of so very many incidents of high level corruption that continue to bring this country to its knees on the world stage, and leave ALONE the poor innocent victims of such corruption who see no choice but to smoke it off rather than let it drive them to remain legal by drinking and thereby becoming almost as dangerous menaces in our society as the perpetrators of said corruption????? Do our courts REALLY believe that fining innocent people and thereby making life even harder on their families and sending people to jail to become a burden on the hard working of this country is EVER going to put the slightest dent in the consumption of God Almighty’s weed in this country????? Could it possibly be that our police and our courts actually BELIEVE they are doing a SERVICE to this country???? I really think we’ve got it all, as that ferewa onerable gentleman from West Bay would say, ‘rong’, folks…

    • Anonymous says:

      Dr. Frank did last election…

  11. guava jelly says:

    We need to stop trying to enforce laws that are un-enforceable. It is a HUGE waste of money, time and resources. Legalization of a proven medically beneficial natural herb is the sane answer. Criminalization of marijuana came about because up-tight racist white men were the ones in power. We’re better than that, or are we?

  12. Rp says:

    PPM, Sunday shopping and ganja decriminalization referendum please if you lack backbone in tackling controversial issues which may impact your vote!!!

    “The equal constitutional rights for all regardless of sexual orientation” issue is a lost cause, no need to add that one to the list. It will solve itself naturally.

    Let’s stop imprisoning people for nothing!

    4 generation Caymanian and Christian (if it makes a difference!)

  13. Anonymous says:

    Keep in context that people are walking around with a criminal record for one reason only. They have a criminal record.

    • Anonymous says:

      Newsflash. Only in Cayman could you get a criminal record for a spliff. Elsewhere it’s not a punishable offence or at worst it’s a caution. Police and courts got REAL work to do.

  14. Rp says:

    This is the most ridiculous war in my opinion. You cannot win a war against a weed! Weeds grow everywhere. Weeds grow extremely fast. Try fighting against the weeds in your lawn and see what I mean.

    Besides, we need it for so many medicinal applications to say the least.

    Prohibition does not work!

    Legalize it or at a minimum decriminalize it. Fine people for consumption if you want and make money off of it. Tax it and regulate it just like alcohol.

    • Anonymous says:

      Colorado has made so much money off of taxes that they are giving people money back……….

  15. Anonymous says:

    Ganja cases aren’t the only thing clogging up the court. Speeding tickets and complete inefficiencies regarding all kind of matters are also to blame. In other words, the whole system needs to be fixed, not just one puzzle piece! It shouldn’t take the court two years to get through with a case.

    • Anonymous says:

      Fathers defaulting on maintenance payments are another one. Guess what the biggest reason why they don’t pay? Right! They are too busy out getting high.

      While there are many that can be functional, there are an overwhelming set of others that are a drain on society.

      Medicinal and recreational are two different purposes. For the ones that need it for medical purposes, then get a prescription for the oil, tablet etc. for the ones that want to get high, move to the other countries that allow it.

      I have children and I do not want my 4 and 6 year old children coming in the house with red eyes and the munchies just because the neighbor wants to relax.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Legalize, tax, and control.

    Move drug dependency out of the legal area into the mental and physical health arenas.

    Prohibition has completely and utterly failed.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Who cares about the political parties that only make decisions for the wealthy. There is enough research that proves the medicinal benefits of cannabis. There are Caymanians suffering/dying now that could use the healing properties. Matter of fact, there are expats families that have left the island because their children are in need of the healing. Laws will only change when it affects the politicians or their financial supporters.

    I would rather be alive illegally, than dead legally.

  18. Joan McLene says:

    if the Gays get what they want in this Country.. free up the weed!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Personal ganja possession under a certain quantity should be a fine (even a heafty fine). As should a whole host of administrative traffic issues that ought to be no-contest tickets instead of clogging our lower courts and wasting police and judicial resources. Then maybe rcips could restore a traffic dept and curtail the doubling of road fatalities in last few years.

    • Anonymous says:

      Personal quantities under a certain amount should be overlooked not fined or otherwise, just as is done in the UK. As the viewpoint says, (and in more ways than those being discussed now) Cayman’s system and its politicians are archaic and desperately need bringing to into the present time.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well said 12.22, the politicos are all afraid of upsetting the churches, which when you come down to it means the people who give them money, rather than doing what is best for Cayman and especially its youngsters. That means catching up with the world. My belief is that even within those churches there are those that are beginning to wake up and smell the coffee and realize that Cayman can no longer sustain many current approaches based on beliefs held and portrayed by so called “ministers” (many, but not all, evil people propagating their own hatred). I encourage those people to come out in to the open and if you really want to do some good, help Cayman to go forwards with enlightened legislation.

        • Rp says:

          I don’t understand how churches can be against this plant and only this plant. I mean, wasn’t it created by God? How can something that grows from the ground and consumed in its unaltered form be viewed by the churches as a sin?

          Didn’t God create this plant for a reason? What is that reason? Medicine maybe?

          I just don’t get their view. Someone pls enlighten me!

      • Anonymous says:

        Does it matter what the fine is in the absence of enforcement? Decriminalize, but pay to play. That’s how most of the world is going, including Canada and Jamaica. In the next decade, rising Obamacare costs will lead to ATF/FDA direction towards healthier choices and we should expect any voluntary smoke inhalation activity, vaping etc to come under increasing fire. Inhaling soot and tar is not what lungs were designed for. If the FDA did away with TransFats, then wholesale smoking bans cannot be far off. That would be a good thing.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Well said. Our Politicians would be wise to take note.

    • Anonymous says:

      I believe they take lots of notes (at least it seems so when in the LA). However, what I would like to see is some ACTION, finally!

  21. Anonymous says:

    Usual Cayman issue, wasting time on things that are not that important whilst the real issues are not tackled. The world is slowly going to acceptance of small amounts for personal use. Just legalise it, tax it and anyone bringing it or harder drugs in, throw the book at them.

  22. Anonymous says:

    ppm will do nothing as usual……the spineless fools have not got the guts to make any tough decisions…….

    but whats the ppoint?….we live in a place where we can’t buy groceries or dance on a sunday……welcome to wonderland….

    • Herby rides again. says:

      Would you rather have the udp? Would you rather the purple people amalgamation that followed them? The problem is that compared to McKeeva Bush et al the ppm are leaps and bounds better. The problem is that this sets the bar not only low but about six feet underground. Nobody is stopping you from dancing on a Sunday, I see it all the time. As for groceries is that really what you are going to complain about. You can’t get organized enough to get groceries on one of the other six days of the week? Ganja should not be illegal but I think that Cayman will be one of the last places, if ever, to legalize it. The trade makes far too much money for the police, the judiciary and/or (maybe one and the same?) those in the trade itself (and I am not talking about street dealers). It is a scapegoat for the most hypocritical and ignorant amongst us. If it was legalized, the way things are here, it would probably cost more than it does now. Look at how much a pack of cigarettes costs.

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