Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019
HomeOpinionEditorialsLegalization of marijuana for medical and personal recreational use, pt.1 

Legalization of marijuana for medical and personal recreational use, pt.1 

This paper has previously stated its support for the legalization of marijuana/cannabis for medical use and for personal recreational use in The Bahamas.

We think this is an area in which The Bahamas does not have to reinvent the wheel. A substantial number of European Union member-states and Latin American countries have legalized medical marijuana and liberalized laws regarding recreational use of marijuana. Others have decriminalized the possession of small quantities of the substance for personal recreational use.

Canada, after having legalized medical marijuana in 2001, legalized possession of the substance in 2018. A growing number of states in the United States of America are following that lead; and closer to home Jamaica and Belize decriminalized the possession of small quantities of the substance in 2015 and 2017, respectively.

Major international studies on the merits of medical marijuana are available to our policymakers. It is unlikely that any study undertaken locally would prove to be more reliable.

Similarly, reports abound on the harm caused by making criminals of young people; in some instances blocking avenues to higher education and often future employment.

Far too many young Bahamian men are being arrested, charged and convicted in our courts for having smoked a marijuana joint. In the minds of most of them the joint is not more potent than a beer. But the conviction for possession of a dangerous drug is attached to their names permanently with all the consequences that a criminal police record means in our society.

This is equally the case for many visitors to The Bahamas who find themselves afoul of the law for possession of small quantities of marijuana. Some of these tourists come from countries in Europe and North America where attitudes toward marijuana use have long been relaxed, and where possession of small quantities has been decriminalized.

So it was timely that the prime minister appointed the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana (BNCM), co-chaired by Quinn McCartney and Bishop Simeon Hall, to review the positions of Bahamians on “all things related to marijuana, and to make recommendations to the government of The Bahamas on positions related to the legal, social, medicinal and ceremonial (religious) issues as they relate to marijuana”. We commend the government for its practical stance.

We were encouraged by the round of town hall meetings organized earlier this year by the BNCM in concert with the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana. Attendees at the town hall meetings appear, in their majority, to support the relaxation of laws concerned with marijuana, particularly as regards access to medical marijuana and the decriminalization of possession of small quantities of marijuana.

The minister of health, Duane Sands, has cautiously addressed the subject of legalization of marijuana as one that needs careful consideration in concert with CARICOM and the wider international community. He further opined that there is not a large demand for medical marijuana in The Bahamas.

More recently, Leader of the Opposition Phillip Davis conveyed his support for the decriminalization of marijuana for recreational and medicinal use in The Bahamas.

It is our hope that the legalization of marijuana matter will gain wide bipartisan support in The Bahamas and that, properly informed and educated, a national consensus will be formed providing for the future lawful distribution, sale and use of marijuana in our country.

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