A frequent visitor to Cayman was sentenced to six months imprisonment on Tuesday after pleading guilty to importing six ounces of ganja into the Cayman Islands.

Garfield Ainsley Spence, 24, initially told authorities he had a prescription for medical marijuana when he brought it to the island on Oct. 27. However, Crown counsel Scott Wainwright advised that Mr. Spence did not have such a prescription with him at the time and the Crown was never made aware of any.

He said a customs officer at the airport smelled ganja when speaking with Mr. Spence and a search revealed a heat-sealed bag in the defendant’s backpack.

Mr. Wainwright said the defendant worked as a ramp agent for an airline that comes to Cayman and did not have to purchase tickets: he visited often because he had relatives here. Defense attorney Crister Brady told Magistrate Valdis Foldats that his client had lost his employment as a result of this offense. He had also disappointed family members in the U.S. and here, so that relationships were now strained.

The basis for Mr. Spence’s guilty plea was that the ganja was to have been forwarded to another person; it was not for personal use.

“This is an offense the court does not understand,” the magistrate said to the defendant. “You had a good job. You’re a family man …. what made you decide to do this, I don’t know.” He pointed to the planning involved in the offense – sourcing the drug in the U.S., deciding how to import it, arranging someone to give it to on arrival in Cayman.

The magistrate pointed out that Mr. Spence’s offending was almost a breach of trust because he had used his employment to facilitate the importation. He had also claimed that ganja was legal in his home state, but that was not true.

The magistrate said there had to be a term of imprisonment to send a message to persons who might be tempted to commit the same kind of offense. For six ounces, the starting point would be one year, but credit for the defendant’s previous clean record reduced that to nine months. Then a one-third discount for his guilty plea resulted in a sentence of six months. The defendant has been in custody since his arrest, and is to receive credit for that time.

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