Abusive marijuana laws waste police time, harm good people

It is tragic to watch young people being paraded before the courts in shackles just because they like marijuana. If they were caught with small amounts, they’d likely get a discharge or small fine by the magistrate. If they have what police consider “too much”, they’d get charged with possession with the intent to supply – a serious charge that carries with it jail time if convicted.

The Bahamas has an archaic mindset toward marijuana at a time of change in the hemisphere.

Uruguay was the first country to fully legalize marijuana in December 2013. Its dispensaries started selling it in July 2017. Canada was the second on October 17.

Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled its laws banning marijuana unconstitutional. Legislation is in the works for legalization there.

In the United States 10 states have legalized.

Michigan is the latest. Yesterday was the first day for the legal recreational sale of marijuana in the midwestern state. Voters backed the move in the November 6 election.

It will take time for all the regulations to be worked out, but residents 21 and older can possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. They can also grow up to 12 plants out of the view of the public.

More states are close to legalization, too. Newly elected Governor of Illinois JB Pritzker campaigned on legalization. In August, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed a group to draft legalization legislation.

The CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana this summer recommended the declassification of marijuana as a dangerous drug.

No Caribbean country has legalized, but Jamaica decriminalized in 2015.

We think there is wide consensus in The Bahamas that we should not be arresting, prosecuting and jailing our people just because they want to smoke marijuana. Police time could better be allocated toward catching thieves, robbers, rapists and killers.

In a report by Arcview Market Research, in partnership with BDS Analytics, it is projected that consumer spending around the world on legal marijuana will reach $57 billion by 2027.

In the United States, the legal marijuana market is projected to reach $11 billion in consumer spending in 2018.

Our current laws disproportionately harm the poor and working classes. Reform is needed.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis and Leader of the Opposition Philip Brave Davis are baby boomers, men from a different time with old attitudes toward marijuana. They are likely afraid to change the status quo either based on outdated views of the dangers of the plant, or fear of the response of the United States.

While there is no need for marijuana to be illegal at all in The Bahamas, the politicians, if they are afraid of bold change, should at least agree to immediate decriminalization and expunging the records of Bahamians convicted of small possession. That just makes sense.

We must stop abusing our people. Our marijuana laws need changing. Reform must come.

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