By GLADSTONE THURSTON
THANK you for this opportunity to announce the formation of Medicannabah – Bahamians for the legalisation of medical cannabis.
We also take this opportunity to encourage Bahamians to apply to the Minister of Health for authorisation to possess cannabis for medical and other purposes. The Dangerous Drugs Act makes provisions for it.
Further, we call on the current Minister of Health, whom we believe appreciates the efficacy of medical cannabis, to help smooth the way for qualified Bahamians to access medical cannabis.
Too, we ask the government to decriminalise general cannabis possession up to certain amounts, and remove simple possession of cannabis convictions from the so-called criminal records of Bahamians.
Let’s take off the blinders though. Cannabis is used medically in the Bahamas already, oftentimes recommended, reportedly, by physicians to assist in anything from appetite building to coping with arthritis pain.
The business of Cannabis in the Bahamas is thriving. One can find cannabis for sale on most of our inhabited islands. For many householders, the income from cannabis sale is their sole means of providing for their families.
However, for the most part, the cannabis commonly available in the Bahamas is of dubious quality and is not fit for the medical application of cannabis.
Hence our request to the government by way of the Minister of Health.
According to the Act (Part II section 3), it shall be lawful for “a qualified person” to cultivate, trade in, import or bring cannabis into the Bahamas.
A “qualified person” is defined by the Act as a registered medical practitioner, a registered dentist, a licensed veterinary surgeon, a licensed pharmacist, the public analyst, or any person to whom special permission is given by the minister.
Section 3 of the Act further defines “qualified person” as one “with special authority of the Minister for medical or scientific” purposes.
Section 9 of the Act further states that “a qualified person” can import and export cannabis into and out of the Bahamas.
Section 10 which basically sets out the medical cannabis industry, states that provisions may be made by rules for “controlling the manufacture, sale, possession and supply” of cannabis.
It goes on to explain how a registered medical practitioner, among others, can write prescriptions “containing (cannabis) and the dispensing of any such prescriptions.”
Section 24 states: “Subject to the provisions of this Act, a qualified person is authorised, so far as may be necessary for the practise or exercise of his profession, function or employment and in his capacity as such, to be in possession of and to supply a dangerous drug.”
Section 26 of the Act states that licences or authorities for the purposes of the Act may be issued or granted by the minister and may be issued or granted on such terms and subject to such conditions (including in the case of a licence the payment of a fee) as the minister thinks proper.
The Act then goes on to set out the procedure and forms to be filled for persons wanting to engage in an activity such as the medical cannabis business.
Basically, as we see it, the Act is very straightforward in making provisions for cannabis to be used for “medical” purposes in the Bahamas.
Cannabis has been part of humanity’s medicine chest from creation. There exists little, if any, scientific basis to justify the government’s current prohibitive stance. Really, there is ample scientific and empirical evidence to rebut it.
Of all the negative consequences of cannabis prohibition, none is as tragic as the denial of medicinal cannabis to the many Bahamians who could benefit from its therapeutic use.
Modern research suggests that cannabis is a valuable aid in the treatment of a wide range of clinical applications.
Cannabis has been successfully used therapeutically in the treatment of cancer, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, AIDs, chronic pain, glaucoma, hepatitis C, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV, anorexia, chronic nervous system disorders, wasting syndrome, chronic or intractable pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, hypertension, osteoporosis, asthma, insomnia, autism and many others.
Emerging research suggests that cannabis’ medicinal properties may protect the body against some types of malignant tumours and are neuro-protective.
Hundreds of US and other international organisations support granting patients immediate legal access to medicinal cannabis under a physician’s supervision, which is all we ask.
Cannabis can be smoked, vaporised, or ingested. The required dosage is small enough to fit in a capsule. It can also be made into teas, tinctures, and edibles. Topical lotions can be used for treatment of headaches, muscle and joint pains.
Is it safe? We have found no known case of overdose. The lethal-to-effective ratio is said to be 40,000 to 1. That of aspirin is 10 to 1. A recent study indicated there is no link between smoking marijuana and lung cancer. There are no adverse side effects such as when using pharmaceuticals.
Is cannabis a gateway drug? My answer is: gateway to where? We have found no evidence supporting the claim that cannabis use leads to use of cocaine et cetera. As a matter of fact, cannabis has been used successfully in the Bahamas to wean persons off cocaine and alcohol.
People start drinking coffee and tea (caffeine), smoking cigarettes (nicotine), and drinking alcoholic beverages long before they ever use marijuana, studies show. Would those products be considered gateways to other drug use? Moreover, statistics show that the majority of marijuana users do not use cocaine et cetera and use alcohol moderately.
What organisations support medical marijuana? They are too numerous to mention here. But some in the US include American Academy of HIV Medicine; American Anthropological Association; American Association for Social Psychiatry; American Bar Association; American College of Physicians; American Nurses Association; American Public Health Association; California Legislative Council for Older Americans; California Nurses Association; California Pharmacists Association; Colorado Nurses Association; Episcopal Church; Presbyterian Church (USA); Progressive National Baptist Convention; Union of Reform Judaism; Unitarian Universalist Association; United Church of Christ; and United Methodist Church.
May doctors in the Bahamas legally prescribe cannabis? Our answer is “yes”. The law makes provision for them to do so. Have they been recommending it? We don’t know for sure but HIV/AIDS patients, for example, have reported that their doctors, who are well known in the Bahamas, have suggested that they use it to build appetite.
We do not need a referendum on this. Definitely not. Just a stroke of the Minister of Health’s pen.
We therefore urge all those who stand to benefit from the application of medical cannabis to apply to the minister forthwith so we can get the ball rolling.
April 20 is International Cannabis Day. Will the Bahamas join the international legalisation movement like the US state of Colorado, among others?
A recent poll showed that as many as seven in 10 Florida voters support a state constitutional amendment legalising medical cannabis — more than enough to ensure passage.
With our salubrious environment, medical cannabis linked to tourism will not only give the industry a badly needed boost but will also open a wide range of career opportunities for Bahamians. Are we going to let Florida beat us out?
I am a member of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), International, NORML of Florida, and People United for Medical Marijuana among others. I am also a registered medical cannabis patient for the state of California.
Because of the draconian penalties attending cannabis prohibition in the Bahamas, Medicannabah members choose a low profile for the time being.
However, we can be found on Facebook with our most vocal proponent, Der Bonniesicker. We invite you to join in the debate.