Warning that school premises are no place to bring marijuana, Justice Frank Seepersad advised schools to adopt a no tolerance approach to marijuana being on the compound, whether in its primary or altered form.
He said if the sanctity of a school is violated, staff and students must understand that would attract severe consequences as marijuana use or possession has not been legalised but only small amounts decriminalised for use in specified circumstances.
Decriminalisation permits individuals 18 years or older to use marijuana or marijuana resin in private. It is against the law to do so in public lthough under the legislation the minister may prescribe a list of approved public places where this may be allowed.
Addressing students of Naparima Girls High School, on Thursday morning, on the legal implications of marijuana possession and use, Seepersad warned them not to bring the drug or marijuana-infused brownies to school, carry same on field trips, to school-based sporting, cultural and other events or they could face hefty fines and imprisonment.
He encouraged both teachers and students if they suspect another student or teacher is using marijuana or has same in his/her possession while at school, to tell someone in authority. “The amendments which decriminalised possession of up to 30 grams apply to persons 18 and older and so with the exception of some Upper Six students, marijuana simply cannot be on your radar.”
“Under the law if you are under 18 marijuana is not an option.” He warned those who will soon be turning 18 or are already over 18 to think carefully about making a decision to use marijuana.
He urged them not to engage in behaviour that is inconsistent with their values, ethics and morals and to guard against any substance which may impair their judgement or interfere with self control that could affect their future. Seepersad said Section 5(2) of the legislation prohibits possession of marijuana, in any quantum, from school premises or within 500 meters of same.
“Simply put, it is against the law to bring marijuana or any product containing marijuana unto school premises. The consequences which can attach if marijuana is brought unto a school’s premises are dire and severe. If you are found guilty by the High Court the maximum penalty can be a fine of $3 million as well as life imprisonment.”
Only last week, five students of Chaguanas North Secondary fell ill after one of their classmates gave them brownies infused with marijuana on Valentine’s Day. That matter is in now in the hands of the police.
Seepersad was invited by school principal Carolyn Bally-Gosine to discuss the legal implications of the recent amendments to the Dangerous Drug Act with Forms Six students. On Wednesday Dr Narvendra Persad also spoke to the group about the negative effects of marijuana and vaping.