Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ announcement on February 5 that his Free National Movement (FNM) administration will be moving forward legislatively to legalize medicinal marijuana comes before the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana has handed in its final report on marijuana to the Minnis administration — which is tentatively scheduled for the first quarter of 2021.
The medicinal marijuana news dominated the headlines and Facebook throughout the weekend, overshadowing the news of Restaurants Bahamas Limited announcing that it will lay off 35 employees from its KFC branches and the news of House Speaker Halson Moultrie formally severing ties with the FNM.
I stand to be corrected, but it was my impression that the marijuana commission was focusing on the legalization of medical marijuana and sacramental marijuana — the latter for the Rastafari community in The Bahamas.
It is my belief that the legalization of sacramental weed will lead to an exponential growth in the Rastafarian community, as many Bahamians will feign conversion to the sect in order to smoke ganja.
I am of the view that the evangelical church might be willing to turn a blind eye, albeit cautiously, to medicinal marijuana, due to its benefits in helping to treat the following ailments: Alzheimer’s disease, appetite loss, anorexia, cancer, Crohn’s disease, diseases that affect the immune system, such as HIV and AIDS, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia and post traumatic stress disorder, muscle spasms, nausea, seizures and wasting disease.
According to health experts in the United States, marijuana contains over 100 different chemicals called cannabinoids, with Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC and cannabidiol or CBD being the two main chemicals in medicinal marijuana.
The THC is the most intoxicant chemical in the cannabis plant, which produces a high in those who either smoke marijuana or eat it in brownies or lollipops.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medicinal marijuana, produced in the drug Epidiolex, for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes, while the drug Dronabinol is prescribed for cancer patients having issues with vomiting due to chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, medicinal marijuana has its fair share of side effects, as with most prescription drugs, such as bloodshot eyes, depression, hallucinations, low blood pressure, dizziness and fast heartbeat.
Being a physician, Minnis obviously views this as the pros far outweighing the cons.
In the United States, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug, along with LSD, heroine and ecstasy, at the federal level.
Ganja advocates are pushing for it to be reclassified as a Schedule II drug.
The Drug Enforcement Agency views marijuana as being as dangerous as cocaine.
At the outset of my letter, I mentioned that Minnis made the announcement concerning medicinal ganja on February 5. Why is this significant? Because his announcement came one day before the birthday of Jamaican reggae icon and Rastafarian ambassador, Robert Nesta Marley.
To Rastafarians, Marley’s birthday is almost as significant as the birthdays of Leonard P. Howell, Marcus Garvey and Haile Selassie I.
I am certain that they would’ve captured the significance of the timing of Minnis’ announcement, especially with February being Black History Month in the United States.
Marley was quoted as saying that “herb is the healing of the nation, alcohol is the destruction.”
Marley was born in Saint Ann Parish on February 6, 1945 to Cedella Booker and a White Jamaican named Norval Sinclair Marley.
Converting to Rastafarianism in the 1960s, possibly due to the influence of Jamaican Rasta elder Mortimer Planno, Marley would join Dr. Vernon Carrington’s Twelve Tribes of Israel Rasta mansion, of which he claimed to have been of the house of Joseph — one of the 12 sons of the Old Testament patriarch Jacob, due to his birth month being February.
With the formation of the “The Wailers” in the 1960s, which included Neville Livingston (Bunny Wailer), Peter Tosh and Marley himself, the group would go on to travel throughout the world, not only promoting Rastafari, but also its religious sacrament of weed to millions of concertgoers, after getting a major break with Chris Blackwell’s Island Records.
Moving into the upscale St. Andrew community at 56 Hope Road in a luxury house given to him by Blackwell, Marley would flaunt his sacramental use of ganja, despite living a few blocks down from the official residence of the Jamaican prime minister.
The house, which was home to Marley’s Tuff Gong reggae record label, was converted into the Bob Marley Museum.
With both the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP) pandering to him, due to his superstardom, one can see why the Jamaican authorities turned a blind eye to Marley’s well-publicized marijuana use.
Marijuana was legalized in Jamaica in 2015 under the Andrew Holness administration — 34 years after the death of Marley.
With the escalating murder count in the 1970s, the PNP thought that Marley’s participation in the One Love Peace Concert in 1978 and the Smile Jamaica Concert in 1976 would’ve led many of the ruthless gangsters terrorizing the nation to put down their weapons. But that never happened.
While in The Bahamas in December of 1979 at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre for his Survival Tour concert, Marley performed before an audience of 6,000 Bahamians.
It was this event, I believe, that would cause both sacramental weed and Rastafari to become fads among thousands of spiritually starving young Bahamians.
With a Bobo Ashanti Rastafari elder claiming in The Tribune a few years ago that there are currently 10,000 Rasta adherents in The Bahamas, Minnis’ latest move may have very well been politically motivated, at a time when the FNM continues to suffer a public relations nightmare in the press and on social media due to the COVID-19 economic crisis.
— Kevin Evans