A visitor to Cayman was stopped from going home on Saturday after airport security officers found ganja in his luggage and turned him over to customs officers, who bailed him to appear in Summary Court on Monday.
Matthew Leventhal, 52, told Magistrate Valdis Foldats he had a medical marijuana identification card issued to him in New York, where he has residence. He pleaded guilty to possession of three grams of ganja on May 6, plus consumption of ganja in Cayman on or before that date.
Crown counsel Greg Walcolm told the court that while Leventhal was departing through the customs area, a physical search of his luggage was requested. A plastic tube resembling a prescription bottle was found with vegetable matter inside. It was tested and shown to be ganja.
In response to the magistrate’s questions, he said the bottle did not have a prescription label on it and the ganja was loose – not in pill form.
Mr. Walcolm confirmed that medical marijuana is legal in New York. He also advised the court that Leventhal had told officers his had been prescribed for chronic pain. According to one source checked, chronic pain does qualify for medical use of ganja, he noted.
Leventhal admitted to officers and again in court that he knew ganja was illegal in Cayman. He said he had brought it into the jurisdiction and smoked it while he was here.
When he said he was currently living in Pennsylvania, the magistrate asked what would happen if he were caught in that state. “I’d be prosecuted,” the defendant replied.
“What would happen?” the magistrate asked.
“I imagine a fine,” he answered.
The magistrate noted that there was talk in many countries about legalizing the use of ganja, but Leventhal had come to Cayman knowing it was illegal here. He said the guilty pleas were strong mitigation and he took into account the extra expense of losing the Saturday flight and staying over.
The fines were therefore reduced to $300 on each offense, for a total of $600. The magistrate said he was recording convictions, which might affect permission to return to Cayman.
He asked Levental how he had been treated by the officers throughout the incident.
“I can’t say one bad thing,” the defendant replied.
By this time it was after 4 p.m. and the court cashier’s office was closed. Officers present indicated they would assist Leventhal in getting his fine paid by taking it out of his bail bond.
Mr. Walcolm said later that the defendant had arrived on island April 29.