Thousands of prisoners languishing over dagga – Sinkamba

ABOUT 5000 Zambians are languishing in prisons across the country for either possessing or smoking cannabis which offence is a victimless offence, the Green Party has revealed. Green Party president Peter Sinkamba said there was no moral justification to arrest anyone found in possession or smoking marijuana as it is a ‘‘victimless offence’’ which in most cases was used as a form of medicine or culture norm. Mr Sinkamba observed that offences of smoking or being in possession of cannabis account for over 5,000 inmates in the country’s prisons. In an interview yesterday, Mr Sinkamba said that it was sad and unfortunate that 19 Rastafarians had been arrested for a petty offence, stating that there was need for a better mechanism such as fines because marijuana cases were only congesting prison facilities. He explained that the smoking of marijuana was a victimless offence as there was no individual who had complained that they had been injured owing to one’s use of the substance. Mr Sinkamba said that he was of the view that prisons were meant to house serious crime offenders unlike cases of marijuana which needed to be treated like traffic offences such as drunken driving or loitering. “It is really sad and unfortunate that the 19 Rastafarians have been arrested. As Green Party we do not think that marijuana ought to be a substance that can land one in jail. This is what we call a victimless crime where there is no complainant to say I was injured because of the action of the other party. ‘‘We do not think marijuana users especially those who use it for medicinal purposes or culture should be arrested, no. This should be treated like traffic offences such as drunk driving or loitering depending with the prescribed quantity, they are supposed to pay a fine and go. ‘‘Marijuana cases are filling up our already congested prisons; out of about 18,000 prisoners 5,000 are marijuana related,” he said. He said that in the civilised society there was no need to make the use of marijuana a crime, stating that in Southern Province women had used the substance for centuries as a form of tradition. Mr Sinkamba said that he was recently in Choma district and offered his solidarity to a farmer who had been taken to court for the cultivation of the substance. He said that he would take keen interest in the matter of the Rastafarians and offer help in any possible way such as lawyers to defend them. The 19 Rastafarians were arrested after being found in possession of cannabis while celebrating the birthday of Emperor Haile Selassie, whom the Rastafarian community holds in high regard.