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Drug trafficking: Law and more
Ian Kevin Ramdhanie, MSc, Principal, CISPS
The vast majority of people locally and abroad do not engage in drug trafficking. For those that do or are thinking of joining this “profession,” be aware that the current punishments are stiff. Many engaged in drug trafficking especially at the lower level are often unaware of what punishment awaits them if convicted. The following are some of the penalties for this line of unlawful enterprise, a multi-billion dollar industry:
Cultivating, gathering or producing drugs:
Regarding marijuana, on summary conviction, the fine is $50,000 and 10 years imprisonment. And, upon conviction on indictment, it is $100,000 or where there is evidence of its value, the fine is 10 times its street value whichever one is greater or to imprisonment for 25 years to life. Summary conviction is usually through the Magistrate Court with a magistrate alone presiding and indictment is usually through the High Court with a judge and jury.
Regarding the coca plant, the punishment for cultivating, gathering or producing upon conviction on indictment is a fine of $200,000 or where there is evidence of its value, the fine is 15 times its street value whichever one is greater and to imprisonment for 25 years to life.
A person can commit an offence of trafficking a dangerous drug or being in possession of dangerous drugs for the purpose of trafficking. Upon conviction on indictment, the fine is $100,000 or where there is evidence of its value, the fine is three times its street value whichever one is greater and to imprisonment for 25 years to life.
The punishment is the same as above for people who engage in trafficking of other substances other than a dangerous drug which they represent or hold out to be a dangerous drug.
Drug trafficking, schools and post:
A person who is found in possession of a dangerous drug or a substance other than a dangerous drug which he represents or holds out to be a dangerous drug on any school premises or within 500 metres of the school, is deemed to have the dangerous drug or substance for the purpose of trafficking, unless the contrary is proved. However, the burden of proof is on the accused unlike most of other crimes. If convicted on indictment, the fine is $150,000 or where there is evidence of its value, the fine is three times its street value whichever one is greater and to imprisonment for 35 years to life. Yes, a stiffer penalty when in and around schools!
What is the punishment for someone who knowingly encloses a dangerous drug in or with any letter, packet, etc, sent by post or courier? Upon conviction on indictment, the fine is $100,000 or where there is evidence of its value, the fine is three times its street value whichever one is greater and to imprisonment of not less than 25 years.
Quantities for drug trafficking:
What quantities of drugs a person must possess for it to be deemed trafficking?
Cocaine, 10 grams; heroin, 20 grams; opium, 500 grams; morphine, 30 grams; cannabis, 1 kg.
There are scores of other prohibited narcotic drugs and their derivatives that all should be aware of. Pertinent questions now are:
1. Are the current penalties for drug trafficking an adequate deterrent for current and potential drug traffickers?
2. Will stiffer penalties, for example, mandatory life imprisonment and possibly the death penalty for drug trafficking be more effective?
3. What other strategies are needed to confront this beast?
4. Given our current recessionary period, will higher compulsory fines for drug trafficking and other crimes assist in generating needed income for the State?
Drug trafficking and death penalty:
The initial Dangerous Drugs legislation in T&T was passed in 1991 and later amended in 2000. There is a provision for the Minister of Health to establish The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Dangerous Drugs to monitor the operations of this Act. This Committee is to review reports submitted by the Minister to Parliament.
Urgent renewed national stakeholder-based conversation (consultation) and subsequent policy formulation (strategic) and action (operational) are needed to deal with drug trafficking.
The law is just only one element. Other critical dimensions that need to be addressed include social, psychological, economical, cultural, political, geographical, technological and criminological.
With increased globalisation, drug trafficking can be easily linked to other crimes like terrorism, human trafficking, corruption and the arms trade among others. This is an international affair that deserves a multipronged attack. Syndicates and people will not give up this lucrative, illegal enterprise without a mammoth war! Training of personnel at all levels to get to the belly of the beast is paramount.
The Caribbean Institute for Security and Public Safety trains both corporate clients and individuals in a wide range of areas in corporate security, law enforcement, corrections, OSH/HSE, supervision and management, etc. Tel: 223-6999, [email protected]
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