Minister responsible for youth and for prison Myron Walwyn has called for local drug laws to be changed to prevent persons from being imprisoned for small quantities of marijuana.
Walwyn made the call yesterday while lamenting that too many young men in the British Virgin Islands are being jailed for tiny amounts of the weed.
He noted that imprisoning persons for simple drug possession puts them at risk of getting involved in future crimes.
“It seems as if as soon as you get in there (prison) it start to get out (degenerate behaviour). Because I guess when you get in there you mix with all kind of people. You could imagine that somebody goes to jail for very small quantities of marijuana but their cellmate is somebody who’s in there for murder or some other crime. And then you have the transfer of criminal thought socially for people who get backed up in the system,” Walwyn said in the House of Assembly.
He also noted the social stigma associated with ex-convicts.
“Sometime somebody hear you went to Balsam Ghut. They don’t care what you went there for. Once they hear you went Balo… it’s very difficult to find employment for you.”
The minister reasoned that other Caribbean countries such as Bermuda have relaxed their marijuana-related laws, adding that the BVI needs to follow.
He claimed that Bermuda’s drug laws have been amended so that persons found with less than a specified amount of marijuana would not be penalized.
“They (Bermuda) did two important things: you wouldn’t go to prison but the prison had the right to cease the drugs, and then the regulations to the bill [has a] requirement for education on drug abuse. And that has to be the type of approach we take to the system because we are relegating too many of our young people, particularly young men, to prison,” said Walwyn.
Other Caribbean nations such as Jamaica have decriminalised the weed. Under that country’s laws, persons found with two ounces or less of the marijuana will be ticketed instead of being criminally charged.
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