Founder and Executive Director of Bahamas Association for Social Health (BASH )Terry Miller yesterday backed the prime minister’s statement that prisoners convicted of having small amounts of marijuana should be released.
“I wish they can release them today,” Miller, 67, said in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.
“Just on his word they should release them because it’s really a devastating thing for a young man, and some of these young guys have children.”
Miller said he was arrested and convicted for possession of half a bag of marijuana in 1974, and that experience follows him to this day.
He recalled that he was smoking a joint with two friends in his apartment when police officers came to his door.
After unsuccessfully trying to get rid of the drugs, Miller said, he took full responsibility, but was annoyed at the crime he was accused of.
“My little 22-year-old brain couldn’t comprehend what the heck was going on,” he said.
“It just didn’t make sense. It didn’t make sense to me then, and it doesn’t make sense to me now.”
Miller said he was charged and fined $100 for the offense, but the biggest challenge for him since the conviction was traveling to the United States.
“I couldn’t travel for a number of years,” he said.
“I had to have ministers of the gospel and ministers of the government write letters on my behalf.
“I had to apply for a visa maybe two or three times before I actually got it, but what was even more interesting is from then to today, every time I travel I still have to go in the little back room even though I have a visa.
“It’s almost like an intentional thing to embarrass you or to inconvenience you because every time they take you there, they have to sit you down for at least half an hour to 45 minutes. So if you miss your flight, it doesn’t matter.”
Miller added that he would like to see stakeholders in the marijuana industry fund therapy for its abusers if the government adopts The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana’s recommendations.
In a preliminary report, the commission recommends the legalization of medicinal marijuana and the decriminalization of the possession of up to one ounce of the substance.
“There should be real funding coming from the marijuana industry to support treatment like BASH, Teen Challenge and Great Commission,” Miller said.
“So, this industry should really be the one to really support us.”
Over 900 people were arrested for possession of marijuana in The Bahamas last year, making up over half of the total drug-related arrests, according to information provided by Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson.
The statistics revealed that 917 people were arrested for possession of marijuana in 2019 compared to 835 in 2018, a 10 percent increase.
Another 622 were arrested in 2019 for possession of marijuana with intent to supply.
In 2018, 592 people were arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to supply. The figures show that there was a five percent increase in arrests in this category in 2019.
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Committee was established last year to review applications of first-time and young offenders, who are defined as individuals under the age of 21 at the date of conviction.
It can expunge records for offenders convicted of possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply if the offender was found with a quantity of less than 10 pounds of Indian hemp, two pounds of cocaine or 20 grams of opium morphine and its salts including heroin.
It is unclear how many inmates convicted of small possessions of marijuana are imprisoned in The Bahamas.