Fashion model Gigi Hadid and a friend were arrested on marijuana charges in the Cayman Islands last week, customs officials confirmed on Tuesday. After appearing in court and paying a fine, the pair continued their vacation and have since left the Caribbean nation, according to multiple media reports.
Hadid, a self-described “nepo baby” (her father is a real estate developer and her mother was featured on “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” after a 15-year modeling career of her own) was arrested on July 10 along with her friend Leah Nicole McCarthy after they arrived in a private plane from New York City, according to officials with the Cayman Islands Customs & Border Control.
“During the search of their luggage, ganja and utensils used for the consumption of ganja were found in the luggage of both passengers,” according to a report from island news source Cayman Marl Road. “The quantities were relatively small and were seemingly for personal consumption.”
The two women were arrested and taken to a detention center, where they were released on bail. Two days after their arrival, Hadid and McCarthy were charged with “suspicion of importation of ganja and importation of utensils used for the consumption of ganja.” They later appeared before a summary court, where they pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a fine of $1,000. They were then released with a clean record, according to customs officials.
Ronde Coletta, Hadid’s representative, told the Washington Post that the supermodel had purchased the cannabis with a medical marijuana recommendation and noted that the medicinal use of cannabis has been legal in Grand Cayman since 2017.
“Her record remains clear and she enjoyed the rest of her time on the island,” Coletta said.
Once free, Hadid and McCarthy continued their vacation, with media reports noting that they had been seen at a karaoke bar and snapping poolside selfies that were later posted to Instagram.
“All’s well that ends well,” Hadid captioned the post, which did not specifically address her arrest.
Cannabis Policy Reform In The Cayman Islands
In 2021, cannabis activists in the Cayman Islands began collecting signatures for a voter initiative to decriminalize marijuana. If adopted, the proposal would also expunge the records of people who have been convicted of using or possessing small amounts of cannabis. And last year, the Cayman Islands Parliament voted to hold a referendum that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. If either becomes law, the island nation will join others in the Caribbean region that have decriminalized cannabis or legalized medical marijuana, including Puerto Rico, Dominica, Jamaica, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Orrie Merren IV, a civil attorney who drafted the voter-led initiative, said that the proposal was drafted to address the disproportionate impact cannabis prohibition has on the islands’ young adults, many of whom live in its lower-income communities.
“I think it’s quite an onerous burden for them to get a criminal charge that then disallows them to obtain employment in the future, or in certain cases could hurt their ability to travel for the purpose of school, university, trade qualifications,” Merren told the Los Angeles Times, referring to young Caymanians. He said he knew at least one person who couldn’t travel to the U.S. because of a marijuana possession charge.
Merren noted that while residents of both wealthy and lower-income communities use drugs, arrests of low-income residents are more prevalent.
“You’re less likely to have police patrols going through a gated community than, say, if you’re looking at lower-income places,” which tend to have higher crime rates and greater police surveillance, Merren said.
Last year, law enforcement officers arrested 154 people for drug-related crimes in the island nation of about 80,000 residents, according to data from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. Most cannabis-related arrests were for marijuana possession, with only three people arrested for importing pot, the charge faced by Hadid and her traveling companion.
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