Trinidad & Tobago – Marijuana activist, Nazma Muller, has been fined $6,000 for possession of more than 400 grammes of marijuana and cultivation of the drug.
Arima magistrate Brambhanan Dubay fined Muller at a virtual hearing. She pleaded guilty to the two charges.
She was arrested on September 9, last year, when Northern Division police said they got information that led them to her home at Second Street East, Trincity.
There they found marijuana plants, nurseries, and 435 grammes of dried and cured marijuana.
She was represented by attorney Daniel Khan.
In his plea of mitigation, Khan said Muller did not commit the offences for financial gain. He also said she did not resist when police came to her home to execute a warrant, and had shown them what she had in her possession. She also allegedly told them she had “these to give away” for her birthday the next day, and said she smoked marijuana because of her religious beliefs.
Khan said when the Dangerous Drugs Act was amended, it created a lacuna, since it has only been partially passed and the legislation was still being developed. The Cannabis Control Bill, which will permit cultivation, import and export of the drug, among other measures, is still to be taken to Parliament. It will also create a licensing regime.
Khan said Muller found herself in the “shifting period,” since what she pleaded guilty to, in the future, will no longer be an offence.
“Sometime in the future, my client will be allowed to have 400 grammes and more than four plants and seedlings, granted she satisfies certain regulations.”
But, he admitted that it did not take away from the fact that she had broken the current laws. He also added that in her view, the law was oppressive, but she had accepted her guilt and was willing to face the court’s punishment and not waste time by challenging the legality of the charges against her.
It was also submitted that Muller is an academic editor who previously worked at the UWI Mona Campus, Jamaica, and is a former journalist. He said she was now an advocate for marijuana use and small marijuana farmers.
Khan said it is his client’s hope to return to Jamaica, where she lived and studied, to use her “experience and expertise,” but to return to TT when marijuana laws are changed here.
In response, the police prosecutor said the law was the law, and Muller, as an activist, was aware that marijuana had not been legalised but decriminalised.
“She knows what you can have and what you cannot have, and we cannot have people breaking the law because they think it is oppressive. A citizen must obey the law.”
Dubay imposed a fine of $3,000 for possession of marijuana and gave her six months to pay, and another $3,000 for cultivation with the same time to pay.
He reminded that Muller pleaded guilty to being in possession of 435 grammes, which was substantially higher than the 30 grammes or less allowed by law.
Muller spent 16 days in prison before she was released on September 25, after her bail was paid. She had been granted bail of $300,000 or $15,000 cash bail when she first appeared in court to answer the charges.
Activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh and others started a GoFundMe account to raise the needed money for her bail after her arrest.
In December 2019, amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act made it legal for people to have no more than 30 grammes of marijuana, but anyone caught with more than 100 grammes can be charged with trafficking and could be fined up to $3 million if convicted.
In 2019, Muller appeared before a Port of Spain magistrate after being charged with using obscene language in a public space to the annoyance of others, while advocating for the legalisation of the herb.
Muller has called for the issuance of licences for cultivation, import, export and sale of marijuana.