When are legislators going to revisit penalties for marijuana possession?
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man was arrested last month after police found 5 hand rolled marijuana cigarettes in his vehicle during a routine traffic stop — he was observed not wearing a seatbelt.
Rodney Savea, who is on probation for a drug conviction 4 years ago made his initial appearance in court two weeks ago. He’s charged with one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, a felony.
Bail is set at $5,000 surety bond and Savea’s attorney informed the court that his client wishes to exercise his constitutional rights to a preliminary examination (PX), which is now set for next Tuesday.
On the night of Oct. 4th, the DPS Vice and Narcotics Unit was contacted after traffic cops allegedly found drugs in a vehicle that was pulled over in front of a Tafuna store, for a traffic violation. According to officers, the driver of the truck was not wearing his seatbelt.
Officers approached the driver who was later identified as Savea, the defendant in this matter. Savea did not have any photo ID when he was questioned by officers. Officers also discovered that the truck’s registration expired in 2020. For these reasons, Savea was informed by officers that they were going to impound his truck, and he needed to come with them to the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) for further investigation.
Before Savea was transported to the TPS, he was patted down as per protocol, and officers found a small baggie containing 6 hand rolled marijuana cigarettes in Savea’s front pants pocket.
When asked about the 5 hand rolled cigarettes, Savea told officers, “It’s marijuana for my own personal use.”
An inventory search was conducted on the truck and another small baggie containing green leafy substance was found under the driver’s seat. The green leafy substance yielded positive for THC, the active compound in marijuana.
In a verbal statement to police, Savea admitted to owning the drugs found inside the truck and inside his pant’s pocket. Working as a mechanic, Savea told police he just returned from his friend’s home in Vaitogi where he helped his friend fix his bus. Before he left his friend’s house, his friend gave him two small baggies containing marijuana. Savea refused to reveal to police the name of his friend from Vailoa.
In 2015, Savea was sentenced to 5 years probation after being convicted of unlawful possession of marijuana. He served 20 months at the TCF as a condition of his probation. The court also ordered him to depart the territory and remain outside of its border for the duration of his probation. This condition was stayed until further order of the court.
Savea’s conviction stems from an incident when police arrested him and two other men for disturbing the public peace in Malaeloa. During the arrest, police found a small baggie full of green leafy substance, which later tested positive for marijuana.