St Thomas man to fight ganja charge in court

ATTORNEY-AT-LAW Christopher Townsend is preparing to vigorously defend 44-year-old Royan Harris of Dumfries, St Thomas who was charged by narcotics detectives on Tuesday with breaches of the Dangerous Drugs Act.

Harris, who is bald-headed, had claimed that the police wrongfully destroyed his ganja field in Dumfries last month as he is a member of a Rastafarian faith group and has permission to grow the weed for religious purposes.

The police report said that on February 18 detectives from the Narcotics Division conducted an anti-narcotics operation at the home of Harris during which 113 ganja plants were seen growing on the deck roof of his house. An adjoining field, which he identified as his, was found with 806 growing ganja plants.

Harris reportedly told the police that he had a licence to cultivate the ganja for sacramental purposes. It is alleged that he told the cops that he was going into the house to retrieve the licence but fled through a back door.

During investigations the police found that no licence was issued to Harris. A warrant was then obtained for his arrest and the cultivation destroyed.

Harris was subsequently handed over to the narcotics police by his attorney and was charged with possession of ganja, dealing in ganja and cultivating ganja.

He was granted bail to the tune of $200,000 and is to appear before the St Thomas Parish Court on March 12.

Yesterday, Townsend pointed to the amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act as he hinted at his client’s defence.

“The law doesn’t speak to form, it speaks to substance as the Privy Council just ruled,” argued Townsend.

Under the 2015 amendments to the Act, adherents to the Rastafarian faith are permitted to smoke ganja for sacramental purposes in locations registered as places of Rastafarian worship.

In addition persons 18 years or older, who are adherents to the Rastafarian faith, or Rastafarian organisations, may apply for authorisation to cultivate ganja for religious purposes as a sacrament in adherence to the Rastafarian faith.

Each household is also allowed to legally grow no more than five ganja plants on its premises. If there is more than one household on any premises, each household may grow five ganja plants.

However, it remains a criminal offence to be in possession of more than two ounces of ganja, and offenders can be arrested, charged, tried in court and, if found guilty, sentenced to a fine or to imprisonment or both.

The smoking of ganja in a public place, or within five metres of a public place, is also prohibited.

– Arthur Hall

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