Gambia Lawmakers Reduce Penalties for Cannabis Possession
On Monday the Gambia National Assembly
Under the previous laws enacted in 2010, any person found guilty of possessing cannabis would be subject to a D250,000 (about $6,300 USD) fine and/or a three-year jail term. With the enactment of the new law, penalties for cannabis possession will be reduced, and based on quantity: 0.1 grams – 150 grams of cannabis will be punishable by a fine between D50.000 and D100,000 and/or imprisonment for six months to a year; 151 grams to 500 grams will be punishable by a fine of D100,000 – D150,000 and/or imprisonment for one to two years; over 500 grams will warrant a fine of D150,000 – D250,000 and/or imprisonment for two to three years.
“We have observed with grave concern the rate of arrest and conviction of young people on cannabis possession. The NDEA (National Drug Enforcement Agency) records show that in the past four years, 349 young people were prosecuted for Cannabis sativa possession and /or trafficking,” says the Minister of the Interior Honourable Ousman Sonko, who tabled the Drug Control Amendment Bill 2014 before lawmakers. “Such imprisonment of young first-time convicts may expose them to hardened criminals in prisons who may negatively influence their lives forever. That is one of the reasons why we want to scale down the fines depending on the quantity for first-time offenders in cannabis possession.”
Many of those who have been charged with possession end up in jail due to the inability to pay the costly fines, resulting in an increase in prison population. Minister Sonko says the new law “may help decongest the prisons and obviate or reduce government spending on prison maintenance.”The current prison population rate in Gambia is 53 people jailed per 100,000. In comparison, the U.S. incarcerates 716 out of every 100,000 people.
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