Bahamas Christian Council President Bishop Delton Fernander yesterday called for a referendum on the issue of marijuana legalization in The Bahamas.
The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana (BNCM) has called for a nationwide scientific poll to get Bahamians’ views on the subject, but Fernander said that’s not good enough.
“Any polling can be manipulated and can be made to say anything,” Fernander said.
“So, if it is that you want to know what the people feel about it, let’s take it to a referendum.”
Bahamas Faith Ministries (BFM) Senior Pastor Dave Burrows agreed with Fernander.
“I think if it gets to the point where the government wants to impose it on the people, then I think that a referendum may be valuable because I don’t think some things should be imposed on The Bahamas that The Bahamas is not in agreement with,” he said.
Burrows said he is in favor of reducing — rather than eliminating — penalties for the possession of marijuana.
“So, if it’s a civil penalty, if it’s a citation or something like that, I understand,” he said.
“But, the complete removal of the penalty, I’m not in favor of that.”
Last week, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that the government is considering the legalization of a hemp industry and will begin, in 2021, expunging the records of people convicted for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The Christian council said recently that it opposed the moves, claiming they will do nothing to solve the country’s problems.
According to the BNCM’s preliminary report, which referenced the 2017 Bahamas National Drug Household Survey, 55.8 percent of Bahamians believe that marijuana should be allowed for medicinal purposes.
It noted that 67.1 percent of Bahamians disagreed with small amounts of marijuana being allowed for personal use.
In its preliminary report, the BNCM recommended the legalization of medical marijuana and the decriminalization of the possession of up to one ounce of the substance. The report also noted that more data needs to be explored to enable the commission to come to a consensus on whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
The Economic Recovery Committee has recommended the full legalization of marijuana for medicinal, religious and recreational purposes, coupled with an appropriate regime that oversees production, sales and export.
The committee made a number of recommendations for the rebuilding of the economy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.