A Legal Drug in Guyana Isgeorge
He also criticized the main opposition party in the House of Representatives for not recognizing the importance of taking such a preventive measure against the widespread use of these drugs. The U.S. Department of State`s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) works to keep Americans safe at home by combating international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. The INL helps countries create justice and equity by strengthening their police, judicial and prison systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores. Traditionally, Guyana`s approach to drugs has been punitive, with incarceration being used as a tool to eradicate the use and supply of drugs, including cannabis. Cannabis users in Guyana still face a mandatory three-year prison sentence for possession of a joint (a cannabis cigarette). However, this policy has failed and, like many other countries, Guyana is proposing to abolish prison sentences for small amounts of cannabis (30 grams or less). Last year, the government took the first steps to amend the law by drafting amendments to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) (Amendment) Act, 2015.
Although nothing has changed yet and cannabis possession remains illegal, the proposed changes show that Guyana is evolving with international opinion and applying practices similar to those of other countries, including those in the Caribbean. The imposition of a prison sentence for personal use of cannabis has been described as excessive and disproportionate and has been shown to have a negative impact on the life chances, travel and future careers of those persecuted and imprisoned under these laws. Therefore, this blog focuses on some of the issues at stake in Guyana`s shift to a less punitive and more focused approach to rehabilitating substance use, particularly when it comes to cannabis. Experts say the existing law contains a loophole because it only provides for marijuana and cocaine and not ecstasy and methamphetamines, which are increasingly being smuggled into Guyana and are very popular among young people. „The amendment aims to control the possession and use of new and emerging psychotropic substances, also known as `synthetic drugs`, which are abused by young people in particular,“ the bill says. The UN World Drug Report 2006 estimated that 2.6% of Guyanese aged 15 to 64 had used cannabis that year, and in 2009 it was reported as the most widely used drug in the country.  Since all new types of drugs are covered by this law and possession and trafficking will result in penalties, Minister Ramson said the government is „paying attention to the protection of young people in this country.“ The Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) reported that these synthetic drugs are increasingly being provided to schoolchildren. As in many other countries around the world, the legal status and laws of cannabis in Guyana have been the subject of much criticism, protest and debate; a country where a minimum sentence of three years` imprisonment is still imposed for possession of a small amount of drugs. In fact, laws banning drugs in Guyana and other Caribbean countries, particularly with respect to cannabis, have been described as draconian, „ineffective, incongruous, outdated, and deeply unfair“ (CARICOM, 2018). This is mainly due to the disproportionate penalties imposed on Guyana for possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use (5 grams) and the low thresholds used to accept drug trafficking (15 grams) in a country where cannabis is grown and consumed by about 5% of the population each year.
Some of the new synthetic drugs, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, are; Methamphetamine, non-medical use of ketamine, fentanyl, new „ecstasy“ and crystalline MDMA. The new strategy emphasizes a holistic approach to public health, and the Government of Guyana is taking steps to improve the delivery of drug treatment at all levels of the health system. Substance use in Guyana is largely managed by a holistic public-private inter-agency approach to substance abuse prevention and treatment, although the promotion of a culture of rehabilitation in prison is also part of the drug strategy. Currently, the psychiatric unit at Georgetown Public Hospital offers outpatient treatment services, the Department of Education provides drug education in schools, while two NGOs (Phoenix Recovery Project and the Salvation Army Men`s Centre) offer inpatient treatment for substance use using the 12-step model; In fact, as part of the new drug strategy, the Phoenix Recovery Project and the Salvation Army will receive a grant to help them deliver their services and increase their capacity.