President should extend pardon to those incarcerated for small amounts of ganja

Dear Editor
IT was reported in the December 19, 2018 media that President David Granger has pardoned three female prisoners as a demonstration of his Christmas spirit. This is heartening.

However I, and I am sure many other Guyanese, would also like to encourage the President to extend his Christmas spirit to releasing all prisoners who are wasting three years of their lives in the lock-ups for possession of minute amounts of marijuana. All this while his administration can’t get their act together to jail those high-profile white-collar PPP hack criminals. He should also ensure that social services are extended to those released on marijuana charges. It’s now widely known that marijuana is now a legal commodity in Canada and parts of the US. Deliberately denying changes to the law is an act of outright discrimination against the Rastafarian community who regard within the context of their religious activities, and affects in no small measure many African-Guyanese youths. All the faults this administration might find in those youths can be traced to economic mismanagement back in those years the PNC would dearly live to forget, but nevertheless seems intent on repeating.

From an economic perspective, there’s no reason that these youths should be incarcerated in the first place, since it has been scientifically proven that marijuana has significant health benefits when used appropriately, in stark contrast to cigarettes. Within this context, releasing these incarcerated persons restores some measure of justice. Secondly, these youths and other individuals lose three years of opportunities to develop themselves socially and increase their earning capacity through experience garnered by working. There is also the lost income associated with their incarceration, which also impacts their families’ welfare, inclusive of children, who are dependent on them as either the main, or one of the breadwinners within the home.

With respect to creating value and increasing welfare, there can be no greater measure than the immediate release and associated squashing of charges, government can adopt in respect of these incarcerated individuals, since in addition to returning income- earning capacity to affected homes, affected families will no doubt benefit from increased social stability as husbands, fathers and sons return to their respective homes. So in the true spirit of Christmas, not to mention improving the administration’s political image, the President is urged once again to release those youths and individuals incarcerated for minute amounts of marijuana.

Craig Sylvester

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