Man lost job after ganja arrest

A Canadian national here on work permit immediately lost his job as a result of being arrested for ganja, Attorney Ben Tonner said in Summary Court on Tuesday.

He was speaking on behalf of Peter Francis McGee who, by the time he came to court had been out of work 74 days. McGee, 47, pleaded guilty to possession of one-half ounce of ganja, supplying and consuming ganja.

Mr. Tonner said the supply was to a friend who asked if McGee had any and he offered her some of his. ‘No money changed hands,’ the lawyer emphasised.

He said McGee was technically guilty of supply, but asked Magistrate Grace Donalds to consider the quantity involved.

He explained that McGee came to Cayman in May 2007 and worked at a West Bay Road restaurant as assistant food and beverage manager.

Mr. Tonner said the incident had caused McGee considerable anxiety. He regretted his mistake and accepted there was no excuse. He had been fully cooperative. He now wished to pay his penalty and return to Canada. A former employer provided a letter of reference.

Crown Counsel Nicola Moore said McGee’s arrest occurred on 11 April. Officers attended his residence around 10am to conduct a search under the Misuse of Drugs Law.

On arrival, the officers met a lady who was leaving the premises. McGee was present.

In their search, officers recovered a plastic bag with traces of vegetable matter and an eyeglass case with a quantity of vegetable matter that later tested as 14.7 grams of ganja.

McGee provided a sample of urine and that tested positive for ganja use.

The magistrate imposed a fine of $750 for possession of ganja and said there would be no separate penalty for the supply charge. But she added $350 for consumption, plus costs of $350 for a total of $1,450.

She agreed McGee could have his passport back after payment was made.

Powers of search

The Misuse of Drugs Law sets out powers of search.

If a constable or customs officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that any person is in possession of a controlled drug in contravention of the law, the officer may, without warrant, detain and search any such person and – whether or not any person is detained or searched – may without warrant break open and search any premises, vessel or thing whatsoever in which the officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that any controlled drug or substance may be concealed.

No officer shall conduct a personal search of a person not of the same sex.

A Justice of the Peace may at any time issue a warrant for the search of any premises in furtherance of the enforcement of this law. Such a warrant may be executed at any time of the day or night within one month of its issue. Where necessary for entry to such premises, such force may be used as may be requisite.

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