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PM hints at support for medical marijuana

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said on Saturday while he has personal views on marijuana, which are grounded in science, he will not force his views on anybody as the government moves to establish a committee to embark on an educational campaign in The Bahamas to gauge public opinion before the matter is debated in Parliament.

“I am a scientist first and foremost. I believe in research,” said Minnis, who returned from Jamaica where he attended the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

“If research shows there are medical benefits, my job as a doctor is to try and improve and save lives.

“I am first and foremost a doctor, so my views are more medicinal; my views are more research, but the matter has to be discussed.

“I am not going to throw my views down anyone’s throat.

“I would give them the facts. My colleagues will give them the facts.

“They will read the facts and they will make up their own minds.

“But, I will not force my views on anybody.”

The issue of whether marijuana ought to be decriminalized in the region was high on CARICOM’s agenda.

The Regional Marijuana Commission (RMC), which presented its report to CARICOM on the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding marijuana in the region, forwarded the view that in a regulated framework, marijuana should be treated similarly to tobacco and alcohol.

Minnis advised the media at Lynden Pindling International Airport that the committee, once established, will present the findings of the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana to the public.

“There have been extensive studies by CARICOM, and I am proud to say that one of our leading bishops, Simeon Hall, was also a part of the CARICOM team that had done all the research and reporting with respect to the cannabis report,” the prime minister said.

“Simeon Hall was there as a part of the CARICOM team where he and the team presented to the CARICOM leaders, as to their findings.

“It was very interesting. I am first and foremost, a scientist.

“I am first and foremost, a physician. We analyze things, and there is information coming out that would suggest there are some scientific benefits.

“As you know, the University of the West Indies is one of the leading institutions before the 70s where they’ve done quite [a lot] of research on cannabis, and they were the ones who discovered the benefit of cannabis, especially with respect to glaucoma.

“Unfortunately, the university’s research center has subsequently fallen off.

“However, The Bahamas’ position, all of our Cabinet members will be well versed with the report and we will embark on an educational process so that our people would understand what was the content of the report after which we would establish a committee.

“That committee would consist of a wide range of NGOs, members of the [Bahamas] Christian Council, members of the University of The Bahamas, members of the [Bahamas] Chamber of Commerce – a broad spectrum would be involved.”

That committee is expected to conduct town meeting and focus groups across The Bahamas, according to Minnis, who said the purpose is to seek the opinions of the public and other “advanced educational institutions within The Bahamas”.

“Once they have completed that, they would be given a timeline as to the response and the feeling of the Bahamian populous,” Minnis said.

“Once that is completed, that would be brought to Parliament for complete debate and therefore the people would make a determination as to advancement forward.”

When asked whether there will be an opinion poll on marijuana, Minnis said, “Individuals have their views about marijuana. I have my views, but I will be leaning more toward scientific views.

“I think the people need to be educated.

“You cannot send a messenger to take a message if they don’t understand the message.

“So, the messenger has to be educated first and foremost, whomever they may be, after which the people must be educated and then the matter can be debated in Parliament.

“…It is not an opinion poll, [but] at least the people would know what is going on, so that they don’t have any false information.”

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