By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
AN attorney was unsuccessful in her bid yesterday to have a magistrate impose a lighter sentence for drug possession on her Jamaican client because of the prime minister’s stance on decriminalising small amounts of marijuana.
Miranda Adderley tried to get Deputy Chief Magistrate Andrew Forbes to exercise leniency on Cecil Reid for the 107 pounds of marijuana he was caught with because of Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ recent stance on the substance.
Cecil, a visitor from Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica, as well as his two compatriots Robert Tenant and Courtney Stewart were arrested last week after police found over $100,000 worth of marijuana in a house they were in on Foster Street.
Ms Adderley, in pleading on Reid’s behalf, drew the senior magistrate’s attention to Dr Minnis saying in November that he supports decriminalising possession of small amounts of marijuana and making the drug legal for medicinal and/or scientific purposes.
Despite her attempts however, Dep. Chief Magistrate Forbes sentenced Reid to 18 months behind bars for his actions, noting that neither the government’s stance nor public discourse on the issue supersedes the current law.
In any event, the deputy chief magistrate said the current discussion surrounding marijuana pertains to “small quantities”, and not the large amount of drugs Reid was caught with.
Deputy Chief Magistrate Forbes further noted the peculiarity of Reid being caught in possession of such a large amount of drugs despite being a visitor and being in the Bahamas for just eight months.
It came after Reid pleaded guilty to a single count of possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply.
Prosecutor Assistant Superintendent Clifford Daxon told the court officers were on mobile patrol in the Foster Street area when they received certain information. As a result, they went to a house in the area where they saw three men, one of whom was Reid, standing by the door.
Upon seeing the officers, all three men tried to enter the residence. However, they were pursued and captured by the police.
As the officers entered the building they were greeted with a strong odour of marijuana. As a result, the officers took the men to an eastern bedroom where they found four crocus sacks of marijuana. Reid and the other two men were consequently cautioned and arrested.
While en route to the Nassau Street Police Station, Reid told the officers: “… It’s my dope. No need to lock up my two friends”. Then, when he got to the police station, he gave a statement admitting knowledge of the drugs. His two friends, 50-year-old Robert Tenant and 43-year-old Courtney Stewart denied knowledge of the drugs.
Yesterday, both Tenant, who landed in the country on January 5, and Stewart, who entered the country on December 9 of last year, pleaded not guilty to the charge and ASP Daxon consequently withdrew the charges against them.
Dep. Chief Magistrate Forbes said such Reid’s 19 month sentence should demonstrate his sort of conduct will not be tolerated “either here or in his home country of Jamaica”. After serving his sentence, Reid will be turned over to the Department of Immigration for deportation. His two compatriots are also ordered to be turned over to immigration authorities for deportation, the senior magistrate said.
Last November, Dr Minnis said he favours decriminalising possession of small amounts of marijuana and making the substance legal for medicinal and/or scientific purposes.
Becoming the first sitting prime minister to publicly support some form of marijuana decriminalisation, he told The Tribune he hopes the decriminalisation process will happen before the end of this term.
He said he is eagerly awaiting the release of a report by the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana to help chart the way forward on the substance, which has been illegal since 1929. He said as the country’s leader, he feels responsibility to have the matter properly examined.
“Many Bahamians including young men have been convicted for possession of small amounts of marijuana resulting in criminal records and the loss of a job or inability to find employment,” he said yesterday. “A good number have also been incarcerated for periods of time. Some cannot afford bail.
“Studies have shown that CBDs (Cannabidiol) have been proven to aid patients suffering from various diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease. Other Caribbean countries have taken steps to or are considering the decriminalising of marijuana for various purposes, including Antigua and Barbuda as well as St Vincent and the Grenadines, Cayman Islands, US Virgin Islands, Bermuda and Puerto Rico.”
The Minnis administration has inched toward a more progressive stance on the drug. Earlier this month its top appointee to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Committee, Paul Farquharson, called on young and first-time offenders convicted of drug possession crimes to get their criminal records expunged.
“If you were to take a poll among young people, a whole lot of them have tried marijuana,” Mr Farquharson said. “Unfortunately, some of them get caught...so I am particularly interested in the young people and giving them another chance.”