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Moves toward the end of marijuana prohibition

On November 6, 2018, voters in Michigan approved a measure to legalize recreational marijuana. Michigan became the tenth American state to do so. It was the first in the Midwest.

Uruguay was the first country to fully legalize in December 2013. Its dispensaries began selling marijuana in July 2017. Canada became the second country to do so October 17.

On October 31, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled the absolute ban on the recreational use of marijuana unconstitutional. A bill has been prepared for legalization.

Jamaica decriminalized small possession of marijuana in 2015 and opened up to a medical marijuana industry. Antigua and Barbuda is following its lead and may get there by year’s end. Trinidad and Tobago is considering decriminalization next year.

Last year the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana recommended the declassification of marijuana as a dangerous drug in all legislation and the reclassification of it as a controlled substance in its report to CARICOM heads of government.

The era of prohibition is rapidly coming to an end. Those in The Bahamas who still think in the terms of the past should modernize their views.

Sadly, we are still engaged in the backward practice of arresting our people and arraigning them in courts just because they have small amounts of the plant in their possession for personal use. Based on police mood, some even get charged with and prosecuted for possession with intent to supply. This unnecessarily ruins lives.

Cannabis has medical, recreational and industrial uses. So many products can be made from its varieties including drinks, sleep aids, edibles, creams and beauty products, medicines, construction materials, clothing, biofuel, paper, types of plastic composites and many other applications.

It is unclear what reforms will be recommended by the local marijuana commission set up by the government. We are a deeply conservative society that is afraid of change. We have leaders who prefer to wait until nearly the whole world has legalized before feeling comfortable that they have permission to do the same.

Our backward laws over the years have disproportionately harmed the poor and people of color. The government does not need the recommendation of the commission for a simple step: decriminalization. That should be done right away. It is a social justice issue.

It should also expunge the records of Bahamians who were convicted for simple possession of marijuana for personal use.

These steps would demonstrate that progressive thinking and policy are emerging on the issue.

Marijuana is not a menace. Change is already happening all around us. It’s time for The Bahamas to embrace the new way of thinking of this plant and its possibilities as being part of a modern, legal economy.

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