Cruise ship passenger bought ganja, fined $300

Local man arrested in connection with incident

A cruise ship passenger ended up spending a couple of extra days on the island after he was seen last week taking part in a transaction that turned out to be the purchase of ganja.

Alexander Barentine, 23, appeared in Summary Court late Friday, when he pleaded guilty to buying a small quantity of ganja in the George Town harbor area on Jan. 18.

He had come ashore from the Carnival Freedom. A Port Authority schedule showed the vessel’s expected arrival time as 7:44 a.m. and its departure at 4:30 p.m.

The incident that led to Barentine’s arrest occurred around 12:45 p.m., Crown counsel Aaliyah McCarthy told Magistrate Valdis Foldats.

She said customs officers were driving in the area of Shedden Road and South Church Street, near the Cayman Islands National Museum, when they observed a local person of interest. The officers had previously received information that he was selling drugs to tourists.

The man was seen to approach the tourist – Barentine – and then hand him something. After observing further interaction between the two men, the customs officers exited their vehicle. The local man tried to leave the scene but was detained, as was Barentine.

The Customs K-9 Unit was called and on arrival alerted officers to a small packet in the museum yard. It was wrapped in clear plastic and contained vegetable matter that proved to be ganja. The dog also alerted officers to the tourist’s backpack, which contained a small packet of ganja. Both men were arrested.

Barentine was transported to the Fairbanks detention center, where he was interviewed and made full admissions.

The magistrate asked him, “Why did you think it was OK to come to a foreign country and break the law?”

The defendant said he did not know how seriously the matter was taken here. He said he was from Oklahoma, where there is “still zero tolerance,” but he was able to make road trips to Colorado [where ganja is legal]. He said he suffered from depression and ganja was the only thing that balanced his mentality.

The magistrate said Barentine was taking a chance, regardless of his reason. “You don’t know how you’re going to be treated in other countries,” he pointed out. “The sentence could be jail – or worse.”

In this case, he said, the sentence would ordinarily be a fine of $500, but he could reduce that to $300 because of the guilty plea. He also recorded a conviction because this was not an inadvertent breaking of the law.

The magistrate noted that Barentine was going to have to fly home, which would be another added expense.

After court adjourned, Mrs. McCarthy confirmed that the local person had not yet been brought to court.