Magistrate Valdis Foldats could not find any previous cases of selling ganja to tourists, so on Tuesday he declared a tariff: the starting point for the offense will be 12 months’ imprisonment.
The first recipient of this tariff was Devon Scott, 41, who had pleaded guilty to selling 2.89 grams of the drug to a cruise ship passenger who came ashore on Jan. 18 this year.
The magistrate imposed a sentence of one year plus two months consecutive for ganja offenses in March while on bail for the January offenses.
Senior Crown Counsel Candia James summarized the case. She said customs officers were in the Shedden Road area near the waterfront when they saw Scott and a tourist around 12:45 p.m. Scott matched the description they had received of someone selling drugs to tourists. When they approached him, he started to run. There was a struggle and he was detained. A package of vegetable matter was found in the yard of the National Museum and another quantity in the tourist’s backpack.
The tourist, who had arrived on a cruise ship, was obliged to stay on island for court two days later, when he pleaded guilty and was fined for buying ganja.
Scott was granted bail to attend the Customs Headquarters on Feb. 20, but failed to surrender on that date. On March 14, officers saw Scott in the vicinity of Bayshore Mall on South Church Street. They requested a search and found a grinder with matter in it that appeared to be ganja. He also allegedly had a small portion of vegetable matter wrapped in clear plastic.
He was taken to court, where Magistrate Grace Donalds temporarily banned him from the waterfront and continued his bail with other conditions. Scott pleaded guilty in August and sentencing was adjourned for a social inquiry report.
Before Magistrate Foldats this week, defense attorney John Furniss acknowledged Scott’s previous convictions, which included possession and consumption of ganja. He also had been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment after being convicted of wounding his former girlfriend and her new boyfriend in 2014.
Neither the magistrate, the Crown nor Mr. Furniss had found any precedent cases of selling ganja to tourists, although they agreed there had been instances of supplying cocaine to undercover officers posing as visitors. For the soft drug, the magistrate said, “We’re going to set a starting point …. We have to send a message to you and like-minded individuals. When you target the tourism sector, you are essentially undermining the reputation of the Cayman Islands. You’re hurting everyone in the industry.”
With a one-year starting point, Scott’s significant criminal record raised the sentence to 18 months. One-third credit for his guilty plea reduced that term to 12 months. Sentences for possession and consumption on Jan. 18 were made to run concurrently. For possession of ganja and a utensil in March, the sentence was two months consecutive, for a total term of 14 months.
The magistrate noted Scott’s “resistance to assistance” and urged him to access professional help available in prison. “It’s time to change your life,” he said.