Bahamians weigh in on marijuana report

Some Bahamians yesterday expressed support for recommendations in a preliminary report by the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana.

The draft report, which was obtained by The Nassau Guardian, recommends the legalization of medicinal marijuana and the decriminalization of the possession of up to one ounce of the substance.

Individuals over 21 should be allowed to use marijuana for recreational purposes, according to the report, which also recommends that anyone over 18 be allowed to use the substance for medicinal purposes. 

Michelle Smith, 50, a butler at the One and Only Ocean Club Resort, said, “I think it should be legalized because like I said everybody’s doing it. I agree with the amount issue. I mean, don’t be traveling with tons and tons of it.”

She continued, “I agree with the limitation on it. The one ounce is fine. As far as legalizing it, I think they should just go ahead and do it. I fully support that.”

Smith noted that the age for recreational usage should decrease to 18.

She told The Guardian, “You know, your 18-year-old sleeps out, you can’t go to police and report that, right? Or, you know, your 18-year-old daughter gets pregnant [by] a 30-year-old guy, it’s nothing you can do. So, why not?”

However, not everyone shared Smith’s views.

Rudolph Dawkins, a 43-year-old air-conditioner technician, said the decriminalization of marijuana can easily result in young people abusing the substance.

“I don’t believe in seeing my young people because I wouldn’t want to see my son abusing marijuana or taking it, not at all, because of what it could do to them,” he said.

Dawkins added, “So, on that light, we could think, if it’s for medical use, it’s okay. But, if it’s to abuse it, it’s totally wrong. So, I wouldn’t be in agreement for it for the total abuse but medical purposes I’d be in agreement with.”

In July 2018, the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana recommended the declassification of marijuana as a dangerous drug in all legislation and the reclassification of the drug as a controlled substance, noting it should be treated similarly to tobacco and alcohol.

One month later, Cabinet approved the makeup of a commission tasked with examining the issue of marijuana in The Bahamas in order to make recommendations to the government. Its recommendations are expected to be tabled and discussed in Parliament.

The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana was initially given until April to submit its findings.

However, it has been granted several extensions.

It is unclear when it will be finalized.

The commission’s draft report recommends the use of marijuana as a sacrament for Rastafarians.

“The Bahamas government may wish to consider granting Rastafarians the right to use cannabis for religious use in privacy,” it notes.

This is something that Timothy Knowles, a 35-year-old Rastafarian, has waited a long time to hear.

Describing how the plant is used in his community, Knowles said, “We need to think. Marijuana is for thinking, not just for drinking or getting out of the spiritual naturality of you. So, marijuana is a yes. It’s good just for thinking.

“It keeps you relaxed. It keeps you stable. It keeps you alert. You don’t have to get high like how people get drunk. You just need a meditation. So, that’s good for your spirit. So, going legal it will be a better thing for our community.”

He noted that the effects of marijuana are not as severe as other legal substances. 

“A marijuana joint would not lay you out,” Knowles said.

“You’ll just be calm and cool, especially if you just using the marijuana by itself. So, I think it’s a good idea.”

Data from the Drug Enforcement Unit of the Royal Bahamas Police Force notes that more than 4,200 people were arrested for possession of marijuana between 2014 and 2018.

However, the public disagrees with the idea that possession of small amounts of marijuana should result in jail time, according to the report.

As a result, the commission proposes the expungement of all police records reflecting possessions of small amounts of cannabis.

Exzaver Russell, 26, who works in food services, supports this recommendation because possession of small quantities of marijuana can “damage our record”.

“You know, if we get lock up now, it would take like 10 years in order to get your record clean,” she said.

“That is too long. That is just destroying the young people, destroying our youth.”

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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