– says APNU and AFC divided on issue; accuses AFC of being ‘opportunistic’Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has thrown his support for custodial sentences for small quantities of marijuana to be removed from the law books in its entirety, but maintained that he is not in favour of the legalisation of marijuana for commercial purposes.Jagdeo made this announcement on Thursday during his weekly press conference at his Church Street, Georgetown office. He reminded that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has made a commitment to support a ‘conscience vote’ should the matter come up for a vote in the National Assembly.“To send somebody, a young person or even an older person…to jail for less than a quarter ounce of marijuana for three years, when we have people who are traffickers, and we have people growing large quantities of marijuana, becauseOpposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeothey have money they get off from the system,” he explained.The former President said he is not opposed to having them face some penalty, but he would recommend alternative or non-custodial sentencing such as: community work and rehabilitation. “Sentence them to community work, sentence them to rehabilitation… you don’t want them locked away,” he added.Jagdeo noted that it was not a contentious issue as that of the death penalty and could be resolved.Further, the PPP General Secretary noted that it is clear that the Alliance For Change (AFC) and the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) is divided on the issue. Also, the AFC he said, has used the recent sentencing of a father to three years to speak about it, describing the party as opportunistic.For almost three years, the AFC has still not managed to find support from the APNU to support the motion in the name of AFC parliamentarian, Michael Carrington, to move the first reading of the Narcotics Drug and Psychotropic Substances (Control) (Amendment) Bill. The motion to have the first reading of the Bill was tabled since December 10, 2015. The Bill itself has not been made public.Former AFC Chairman Nigel Hughes, with the help of Attorney Mark Waldron, had drafted the bill, which seeks to soften the penalties for marijuana possession. That draft bill stipulates that persons who are found in possession of the drug for personal use would be required to pay a fine of $10,000, or perform community service for a period of time, something that is being widely supported.But Jagdeo also explained that calls for public consultation on this very issue by Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams, is just an attempt to delay the issue. He said AFC members in Government are also being pressured by its party members to push for the changes to the marijuana laws. “Their best way to deal with it (division) is to push it off via a call for public consultation,” Jagdeo observed.He said, “This public consultation, I think is to solve the contradiction that they have among themselves.” When questioned as to whether he would support looking into the economic benefits of marijuana, Jagdeo said, “I am not supporting the legalisation of marijuana, growing marijuana, trading marijuana, selling marijuana in Guyana, you go to jail for that sort of thing, that’s our law I am not supporting that.”Minister of State Joseph Harmon has also affirmed that decriminalising the use of this substance is not on its immediate radar. He instead has laid that responsibility at the feet of the Judiciary, stating that the matter of sentencing lies within the purview of the Judiciary.“With respect to decriminalisation of marijuana, that is not a matter that is engaging our immediate attention. What we have (is) a motion in the National Assembly by one of our members about the sentencing policy with regard to marijuana,” he explained.Carrington’s draft legislation intended to reduce the penalties attached to possession of small amounts of marijuana intended for personal use has been pending for a year now in Parliament.While a number of developed countries have acted to decriminalise marijuana, and the movement is gaining momentum worldwide, President David Granger has instead cautioned against buying into practices being embarked upon by developed countries that have the requisite framework in place to support such legislative reforms.The President has made it clear that such reforms are currently not a concern of the Government; and, on a more personal note, has declared that he would not subscribe to the usage of marijuana.According to Guyana’s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act, once someone has summarily been convicted of possession of any narcotic, that person is liable to be imprisoned – for at least three years and at most five. There is also a fine attached to such conviction.