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Bishop Hall: Medical marijuana could generate ‘far more’ than $5 million

Bishop Simeon Hall said yesterday that his focus is on the medicinal use of marijuana and the social injustice surrounding the use and possession of small amounts of the substance in The Bahamas. He believes in a regulated framework the financial benefit to the nation in regards to the medicinal use of marijuana could be far greater than the $5 million projected by the Regional Commission on Marijuana, which refers to both medical and recreational marijuana.

Hall was a member of that commission, which submitted its report to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

“There are those who are talking about the economic value of this social phenomenon,” Hall told The Nassau Guardian.

“That’s not my field. What I am more interested in is the medicinal value and then how can we help young, black men who are being pushed into a criminal sphere and they end up in all kind of trouble.”

When asked if he felt the projected figure was too conservative, Hall said, “I think it will be far more than that.

“I visited Jamaica two, three times a year and to be honest with you, Jamaica’s economy is booming in spite of the crime wave they had because of the legalization of marijuana.”

He added, “I do know that many Caribbean nations are enjoying a boost in their economy because of this.

“That has to be studied. I am a bit reserved there. As I said, I would like to underscore it is medicinal and social justice.”

Elliot Hepburn-Marshall, president of Bahama Cann and CEO of Oakland, California-based Proper Rx Collective, which delivers medical marijuana to patients, has suggested that medical and recreational marijuana could be a billion-dollar industry in The Bahamas.

Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that Cabinet approved the makeup of a committee to examine the issue of marijuana in The Bahamas and make recommendations to the government on how the issue ought to be handled.

Minnis said Hall will be on the committee and advised that the proposed members should receive letters within two weeks.

Hall said he is “ready to serve” and awaits the formal directive from the government.

He said he also hopes to bring his experience from the Regional Commission on Marijuana to the local body.

Call on the church

Hall, a past president of the Bahamas Christian Council, also stressed that The Bahamas must do better for its young people on the issue.

He called on the church to weigh in more on the discussion, insisting it should be the “headlight” on the matter, instead of the “taillight”.

“For our own benefit I think we should try to consider what are the social benefits of us helping our people, and I am saying for medicinal purposes and for social justice,” Hall said.

“I call on pastors to be open and study it and if you study it like I have in the last two years, I think you will change your mind.”

He continued, “I think we need to be forthright and in this case the church should not be the taillight on this discussion, but the headlight and lead our people into some form of social, mental liberation.

“I don’t smoke. I don’t promote smoking in any form, but I believe that marijuana does have some medicinal value and I am saying for people who have some challenges and cannot afford these exorbitant insurance policies, maybe if doctors can verify that marijuana has some medicinal value, maybe they can grow it in their backyards.”

The regional commission, which presented its report to CARICOM on the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding marijuana in the region, put forward the view that, in a regulated framework, the substance should be treated similarly to tobacco and alcohol.

The government is expected to provide the necessary funds and give the local committee three to four months to travel and do a national overview on the issue.

A subsequent report is expected to be tabled and discussed in Parliament.

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