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Marijuana Issue ‘Not On Agenda’

Dr Duane Sands, Minister of Health. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff

Dr Duane Sands, Minister of Health. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

HEALTH Minister Dr Duane Sands reiterated yesterday that legalising marijuana is not on the Minnis administration’s agenda.

His statement came as CARICOM prepares to host a local town hall meeting in Nassau tomorrow on the issue. 

“We would prefer to use our political capital on issues of job creation, empowerment of Bahamians, crime, health and education because while you can walk and chew gum at the same time, there is only so much contentious debate that you ought to engage in at any given time,” Dr Sands told The Tribune.

“This is like Junkanoo, a Valley and Saxons thing. People have strong feelings that either you shouldn’t or you should legalise the drug. Some older persons believe that it is the root of all evil. Some people in law enforcement genuinely believe it destroys the brain and bear in mind if you look at the experience we had with marijuana in the 1970s, a longstanding hypothesis was that marijuana started us down the road to the drug culture. Whether valid or not, it is certainly an existing, respected view in this country.” 

Dr Sands said when the time comes, the country must be prepared to “debate very tough, emotive issues” like marijuana. 

“My concern is a lot of these discussions end up with terms like ‘ya ma’ or ‘carry your you know what,’” he said. “I don’t know how much of it is a discussion or a row. As the former US President Barack Obama said, we have to be able to advance these conversations and disagree without being disagreeable.”

Meanwhile, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Fred Mitchell said in a statement the opposition party is interested in the medicinal possibilities of marijuana and in saving young men from the stigma associated with using the drug. 

Before he became an elected official, Dr Sands publicly expressed support for decriminalising possession of small amounts of marijuana. He now stresses that as a Cabinet minister his personal views don’t matter because, in keeping with Westminster traditions, he speaks on behalf of the government.

In a Facebook post in 2014, the Elizabeth MP said: “Let us decriminalise possession of small quantities of marijuana to free up our criminal justice system for more heinous crimes.”

Yesterday he said the government’s official position is that marijuana “is not an issue the Bahamas is going to lead the discussions on, notwithstanding the fact that this is a very topical issue not only around the world but in the Caribbean.

Dr Sands added: “There are people who believe that marijuana could be the economic saviour of the region. Conspiracy theorists suggest that if we are too slow this will be another product that the western world will control and yet again the persons in the Caribbean will become slaves to those who have controlled the economy of ganja.

“Whatever you believe, this is clearly an important discussion and while we are prepared to facilitate the discussion and canvass views of the Bahamian population, this administration is not seeking to drive this agenda.”

Dr Sands said global trends won’t dictate the administration’s marijuana policy.

“If you look at what’s happening in the US, many states have not only decriminalised but legalised both medicinal and recreational use of marijuana but the federal government has not. You go further north to Canada they have an even more liberal view perhaps. But just because other countries are doing it and have done it, while we have to be mindful of what’s going on in the world, at the point in time when this becomes an important agenda item driven by the population and the narrative, then I think we can advance with the debate as a civil society.”

CARICOM’s regional commission on marijuana was established in 2014. Its objectives include examining the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding marijuana use in the Caribbean to determine whether the drug should be made more accessible. The regional commission will hold its first town hall in the Bahamas tomorrow at the Holy Trinity Activity Centre at 6pm to learn how Bahamians feel about decriminalising the substance.

Asked about his party’s marijuana views yesterday, Mr Mitchell said: “The CARICOM process on marijuana which is now unfolding is one which was initiated at CARICOM with the support of the government of the Bahamas when the PLP was in power. We nominated Bishop Simeon Hall as our representative on the commission.

“We believe that having regard to the changing attitudes toward marijuana use around the Bahamas, the region and in the United States and Canada, there needs to be a study of the issue to provide guidance from our various peoples on which direction the law should take. We encourage all people to go to the meetings and air their views on this important subject. Someone from our party will attend. We are particularly interested in saving so many of our young men from the continued stigmatization of their lives and work because of marijuana use, and we are interested in any possible medicinal uses. The PLP believes in informed choices, thus our support for the CARICOM wide study.”

According to statistics police provided last year, 1,346 people were arrested for matters related to marijuana in 2016. Of these, 799 were taken into custody for possessing the drug, 537 for possession with the intent to supply, eight for cultivating marijuana plants and two for possessing capsules containing marijuana. In New Providence, 3,766.64lbs of marijuana were seized by police while 95.35lbs of the drug were seized in the Family Islands. 

Comments

Sickened 2 years, 4 months ago

Let's get on this progressive bank wagon quickly. We don't always have to be the last to react to sensible changes!

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TalRussell 2 years, 4 months ago

Comrades! I've been quietly working away in my Brownies Lab to perfect a specially laced recipe that will works through the digestive system to clog the rectums crown members of the Imperial ‘Red Short’s' cabinet, from goin too ‘regular,’ to works as a types 'reverse laxative clogging agent' to slow down all the crap they keeping peddling to a public - who done intelligent enough has them on their 2022 suspect list.

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HonestTruth 2 years, 4 months ago

Can someone translate Tal’s gibberish for me please.

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John 2 years, 4 months ago

Tal said he has been on Hypo Weed for the last 10-15 years and anyone who even attempts to comprehend, his weed-induced gibberish, after several failed attempts, must also be high and/or a complete jack ass!

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TalRussell 2 years, 4 months ago

Comrade John, I would never make sense without the inputs which you too can receive from the outside.You should see the reaction my fellow churchgoers when I join-in to start talking in gifted from above tongues.

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joeblow 2 years, 4 months ago

Will it always be the game plan of this country to mindlessly follow the trends of other countries while calling it progress. This is not common sense!
Why don't we follow trends of higher education, low teenage pregnancy rates, technological innovation, hard work and productivity! Will we always be mindless followers?

Economic benefits cannot be the sole determinant of whether or not a particular course of action should be taken. We still haven't recovered from the drug culture of the 80's!

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sheeprunner12 2 years, 4 months ago

Well ...... Hell ........ The Government betta put Marijuana on their Agenda ....... 75% of the country has smoked weed at some point in their life ........ Many sitting in Cabinet as well.

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John 2 years, 4 months ago

Make it clear...I am not an advocate of legalizing marijuana. Not on the surface and not for recreation. For medicinal use, yes..It is a natural substance and has far more less side effects than most man made drugs on the market. Young people have enough traps set for them to fall in without weed. That being said marijuana, as a contraband, has destroyed more lives i the past 30 years that it would have done if it was legal or at least decriminalized. Again I don't advocate legalizing it for recreational purposes, but decriminalizing it with strict guidelines. Reality hit home a few years ago when a family member was stricken with cancer. After they stopped responding to chemo and all other medications, their doctor mentioned (off the record). Give them some marijuana to aid with the pain and make their lives more comfortable in their last days (gender is intentionally not being mentioned) Of course this family member, you couldn't approach them with the ideas of marijuana and worse for smoking. fortunately their time on earth was cut short and their suffering was minimal. ANd while legalization of marijuana may not be on the FNM's government agenda by choice, they will eventually have to face the music. If the substance becomes legal to the North West of the Bahamas and to the South and East of the Bahamas. how can they dodge the bullet? They cannot bury their heads in the sand and say "nobody can see me."

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PastorTroy 2 years, 4 months ago

“We would prefer to use our political capital on issues of job creation, empowerment of Bahamians, crime, health and education WOW!! All of the different areas that Cannabis legalization has literally proven to make better when properly implemented. Slaves? We are already slaves, we have the DEA (yes, I did say DEA not only DEU)cutting down cannabis fields IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF THE BAHAMAS!! If the DEA wants to find cannabis what happening to California's Emerald triangle? Colorado? Maine? Nevada? Boston, Mass.? Alaska? Washington State? WASHINGTON D.C.? (yes, where the 'Whitehouse" is located) Even Florida next door has huge billboards up on highways CANNABIS IS LEGAL IN FLORIDA! I must admit Jesus must be white, and satan... well, that's another topic. Keep banking on subservient jobs to build our economy, while trying to get rid of illegal migrants in the Bahamas, it won't happen. With the population of Haitians in South Florida and the fertile soil back in Haiti, Haitians will soon buy the Bahamas and have Bahamians working for them, IN THE BAHAMAS! #VisionlessLeaders

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Porcupine 2 years, 4 months ago

That we have come to accept as acceptable, the very idea that a government can dictate that we cannot smoke a natural herb, causing no harm to anyone, says a lot about our warped sense of freedom. Worse, we tolerate the harassment, fines and jail time for living free. Anecdotal evidence for many decades, of many millions of people has proven that the unlearned dinosaurs who still rule have been wasting taxpayer resources and diverting law enforcement from more important matters. Smoking herb is a matter of choice. Religious zealots: please see that your own lifestyle is in order before telling others what they should or should not do. Yes, we will be the last to see the light. As usual. Education is about learning to think, not just about getting a job. It seems we think less and less each year that passes.

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SP 2 years, 4 months ago

How long are we going to be too stupid to do what's best for ourselves?

Too stupid!!

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SP 2 years, 4 months ago

Dr. Sands and his crew of newly elected dinosaurs are far too stupid! Let us keep on grabbing at straws, reinventing the wheel, staying in the dark ages instead of embracing a proven new and lucrative commodity that we are seemingly good at, as the world leaves us behind in yet another area.

These same jackasses are rushing to sign us onto the WTO "agenda" without any consultation of the electorate or providing one iota of evidence of how WTO has improved the lives of any developing countries populous or intend to be positive for Bahamians!

TOO STUPID!!!

Stop the Island, I want to get off!

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John 2 years, 4 months ago

BREAKING NEWS: with 38 States in the US plus Guam, Hawaii and Puerto Rico legalizing medical Mayans another 5 or 6 States making recreational weed legal, President Trump has promised to quash these laws and enforce Federal laws that make marijuana illegal. This has come as a shock to many states as Trump made a campaign promise not to interfere with individual states decisions to legalize marijuana. WEED has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry in the US And was a tactical response to America’s failed war on drugs. President Obama gave states the right to legalize or at least decriminalize the posesssion of small amounts of marijuana because many found themselves getting hefty fines or heavy jail sentences. The drug possession laws did not favor Blacks or other minority’s and many believe this is part of the reason Trump is refunding Obama’s laws. In addition, many feel Trump is pandering to his big business friends who are in the cigarettes and alcohol industries. Many states have wowyto fight the attorney general’s ruling.

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ashley14 2 years, 4 months ago

Maybe it will help put the drug dealers out of business.

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DWW 2 years, 4 months ago

let us continue to waste taxpayer money on a fruitless endeavour with no real benefit to society.

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BahamasForBahamians 2 years, 4 months ago

Well considering the influx of marijuana houses in his constituency, it stands to reason that this 3 time loser may be poised for a one term visit to The Honorable House of Assembly.

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