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Marijuana - We Need The Debate

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Minister of National Security Marvin Dames in the House of Assembly. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

TWO Cabinet ministers yesterday conceded that marijuana use has had a “devastating” impact on communities in the country, but agreed the Bahamas has reached a point where discussions must take place focusing on whether decriminalising the drug should be a consideration for the government.

While shying away from revealing his personal position on this issue, former deputy commissioner of police, now National Security Minister Marvin Dames said it is easy to decriminalise marijuana but the discussion will have to focus on regulating and managing its use.

This discussion, juxtaposed against how other countries around the world are handling marijuana use, will direct national discourse, Mr Dames said.

Reader poll

Do you think marijuana should be decriminalised?

  • Yes 78%
  • No 22%

218 total votes.

However Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest had a different view. He told reporters yesterday he does not subscribe to this train of thought, adding the Bahamas must chart the way for itself. He said whatever steps the country takes should align with its own traditions, culture and values.

A third Cabinet minister, Dion Foulkes said yesterday he preferred to reserve his personal position until after the Minnis administration makes a collective decision.

A town hall meeting organised by CARICOM’s Regional Commission on Marijuana on Friday night drew strong positions from those attending.

Attendees were greatly in favour of marijuana decriminalisation and legalisation. How representative the audience was of Bahamians’ views at large was a question that lingered after the event. It was also on the sidelines of this event that Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield said no reasonable person can deny the Bahamas must scrutinise laws that criminalise people possessing small amounts of marijuana.

State Minister for Legal Affairs Elsworth Johnson also emphasised that to ensure the conversation about legalising or decriminalising marijuana persists, proponents of change must organise themselves to make the government pay attention.

Mr Dames said yesterday: “This is a discussion as I said before, that this is where the world is going and we in certainly the Bahamas will too have to look at our position and that will have to be clearly thought out. But we are at the right place. We are now having those discussions to see where the people of this nation will expect for us to go.”

Asked to reveal his personal position on the issue, Mr Dames said: “I have some thoughts on it but when we discuss it as a Cabinet, most certainly we’ll come back with our position. But I said before we have to come to this point in this country where we begin to debate issues like that. There’s no hidden agenda or no secret. This is what democracy is all about.

“But at the end of the day whatever direction we go we as a government will have to ensure that we are fully prepared. We have been monitoring what has been taking place throughout the United States. Canada is a little ahead of us but at that point as well where they are contemplating it and certainly the Caribbean as well. So this is a global discussion that is currently being had.”

He was also asked what he saw as a former police officer in communities where marijuana use was prevalent.

“Well a devastating one, a devastating one. But we have to look at that in different sections in different phases. For a very long time now . . . I’ve seen discretionary options used by officers and certainly the courts in respect to young people for many years found in possession of small quantities of marijuana. But like any other business whether it’s the illegal lotto business or whether its marijuana, one of the key focus would have to be how do you regulate (and) how do you manage it.”

From a revenue generation stand point, Mr Turnquest said the discussion will have to go beyond the cash factor.

“There is a saying something about what is it to benefit the world and lose your soul? Something of that nature,” Mr Turnquest said. “I think this is one of those kinds of considerations. So it’s not purely an economic discussion. We have to look at the social side. “We have to look at how this will affect our communities and network productivity.

“There are two sides to the coin. There are benefits, there is no about it, but there are also drawbacks and so again as I say we have to take a very considered and balanced approach to this and make sure that before we do anything that we consider all aspects of the issue so that we don’t rush head long into something and pay the price later.”

Comments

BahamasForBahamians 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Let me translate this.

We need to get the old hacks (i.e christian council, and those that want to impede progress here in The Bahamas ) involved in the conversation - even though it was the millennials that truly brought the wave that got the FNM elected.

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Emac 3 months, 1 week ago

My goodness. I think this is the first time we are in agreement! I think you your contributions can be invaluable when they are not lopsided towards the PLP :-)

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bogart 3 months, 2 weeks ago

.....suk teet. Is this what our fees and concessions in becoming a member of CARICOM is reaping?

There are more important joint ventures we can indulge in such as CLIMATE CHANGE

Rising tides not only affect our shores but also inland water ponds, swampland (many subdivisions which seem to have been filled in land), blueholes low land mass as well.

More should have been demanded and expected from CARICOM given the more important effects of CLIMATE CHANGE on our land mass, shallow seas, coral reefs etc. to survive as a nation than the benefits of smoking and selling weed.

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OldFort2012 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Make it legal to grow. Make it compulsory to sell all production to 1 licenced company, which will be a PPP. Licence that company to produce derivatives. Licence that company to sell derivative products to tourists in shops. Give every Bahamian a free shareholding in that company once up and running, however minimal, but without right to vote. With right to dividends. Some sort of preferreds.

I would be shocked if that company did not have a turnover of at least $200m with annual profits of $100m.

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PastorTroy 3 months, 2 weeks ago

***“There is a saying something about what is it to benefit the world and lose your soul? Something of that nature,” Mr Turnquest said*** ...AND THIS IS THE MINISTER IN CHARGE OF OUR COUNTRY'S FINANCES? Sir, what did your ideology said about money?? Because I've seen people do some strange things that equate to "losing their soul" (which is impossible) for MONEY, but cannabis? I've had some good laughs' seen hopefulness, much-needed appetite, not needed appetite too, I've also seen cannabis BECAUSE OF PROHIBITION cause some horrible and disgusting things especially to our young men in the Bahamas/Caribbean/Worldwide, have these black fathers and mothers prohibitionist read or watch a video on why cannabis became illegal in the first place? Losing your soul? Being a heartless politician capitalizing on the demise of your fellow brothers and sisters equates "losing your soul" Sir. #VisionlessLeaders #DinosaurMentality

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ThisIsOurs 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Repost: Marijuana proponents are a strange group. I recall about a year ago(?) Fayne Thompson the loudest voice was asked directly if he would want his son smoking marijuana and he said "NO". And I understand his response, because the truth is, nobody really knows what effect it will have on another person, unless you do medical studies. This rosy, "look at all the money we'll make" picture people are putting forward is extremely irresponsible. There's a dangerous dark side to this industry, th growers in the US report that there is a constant fear of being robbed and having produce and equipment raided by organized gangs. Pretty it up all you want drugs, sex trade and gambling are vices that are always accompanied by seediness.

pasting out the Aug-2017 cbn.com news story referenced by @Joeblow.:

"This week marks the fifth anniversary of Colorado's legalization of the commercial marijuana trade, and the reviews aren't good. An editorial in the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, "Five years of retail pot coincide with five years of a homelessness growth rate that ranks among the highest rates in the country. Directors of homeless shelters, and people who live on the streets, tell us homeless substance abusers migrate here for easy access to pot". The paper says, "Five years of Big Marijuana ushered in a doubling in the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for marijuana, based on research by the pro-legalization Denver Post. Five years of commercial pot have been five years of more marijuana in schools than teachers and administrators ever feared."

"Family: Marijuana Edibles Caused Son's Death Rocky Mountain PBS reports that an investigation in 2016 showed that "drug violations reported by Colorado's K-12 schools have increased 45 percent in the past four years, even as the combined number of all other violations has fallen." The investigation found that drug violations by high school aged students had increased by 71 percent since legalization. Colorado ranks first in the country for marijuana use among teens, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The head of Colorado's Marijuana Accountability Coalition said, "It's one thing to decriminalize marijuana, it's an entirely different thing to legalize an industry that has commercialized a drug that is devastating our kids and devastating whole communities."

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John 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Do you know America has an annual consumption of $100 Billion in illegal drugs? Do you know most of America’s drugs com from Mexico? Do you know that many towns and cities in Mexico have been crippled or destroyed by drug wars? Do you know that over 160,000 (yes almost half the population of the Bahamas) have been killed in drug related murders over the past decade? Do you know that no one is off limits in these murders? Victims include politicians, judges, soldiers, policemen, rival cartel members, farm workers, college students and even young children. Is Mexico better off for its drug trade? Not in the parts where illegal drugs are cultivated or trafficking across the boarder takes place. One Hundred Billion is a lot of money. It’s 15 times the national debt of this country. One Hundred Billion can build at least 35 Bah Mar’s even with delays and cost overruns. It can rebuild every hospital and school in the country and repair every road. And if shared among them, every Bahamian can get near $300 Thousand in cold, hard cash. And what’s the point? Tried carefully when venturing into strange and unknown territory. Even some of the US towns have said ‘ the legalization of marijuana has caused criminals to move in and good citizens to move out.’

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athlete12 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Mexico is ran by cartels who fight over territory and power. Legalization in some US states have already had an impact on the bottom line of those cartels because the demand for marijuana isn't as high.

And which cities in the US do you speak of?

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sheeprunner12 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Start with allowing every Bahamian to be able to possess 3 ounces of weed or grow five trees for personal use without getting locked up. ......... and allow medical marijuana. But beyond that ........ make any other possession or intent to supply ILLEGAL.

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SP 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Marijuana is being legalized or decriminalized in "real countries", and the Bahamas is talking about debating the issue, while other countries are using the opportunity for profit, simultaneously making prison space for real criminals?

http://www.thekindland.com/products/all-of-the-places-in-the-world-where-pot-is-2871

If we are so intelligent to "debate" this issue that others have long ago concluded, why are we a borderline failed state compared to the rest of these countries?

TOO STUPID!

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sheeprunner12 3 months, 2 weeks ago

The taxes that will be derived is not worth the cost to a fragile society like The Bahamas .......... Treat it like gambling ..... Let the tourists come and smoke for a fee.

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athlete12 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Really sheep? Let the tourist come and smoke for a fee? how would that even work or be enforced?

Look what gambling has done to our fragile society. How can't a 'Christian' nation comprehend that marijuana is a God given plant, which continue to show medicinal benefits.

This country isn't fragile it's just afraid to advance!

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joeblow 3 months, 1 week ago

To deny the fragility of this country is to close one's eyes to the truth!

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sheeprunner12 3 months, 2 weeks ago

The tourists gamble in casinos. Let them smoke in upscale dope saloons.

Like they do in Amsterdam.

And I do not support webshops (close them!!) ........ I support National Lottery.

It is called using an evil to provide the greater good for the country.

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joeblow 3 months, 1 week ago

This country has and always will have problems with management of resources. National lottery won't solve anything. It does not matter how many sources of income the government has they will squander it BECAUSE they have no vision beyond re-election! They will simply increase the size of the welfare state!

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sheeprunner12 3 months, 2 weeks ago

How many of the sitting Bahamian MPs and Senators and senior pastors will allow their children and grandchildren to smoke weed ....... say at the age of 14????? ........ That is the usual entry age for most weed smokers.

When I hear their answer on this question ......... then the national conversation can begin.

Until then ........ Let us adopt Lanisha Rolle's mantra ........ It is a private issue (smoke weed at home).

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athlete12 3 months, 2 weeks ago

No one wants their 14 year old child smoking marijuana or drinking, or at the strip club, or driving a car.

The better question would be do we want to lock up a 14 year old for smoking marijuana?

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sheeprunner12 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Whatever pleases you ........ but LEADERS must LEAD ....... Not hide behind opinion polls, The Bible, and foreign consultants and emissaries.

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ThisIsOurs 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Hehe so we take away a law so we can't say anyone broke one, that's a good precedent

I say a better question is, why don't we train our 14 year olds to obey and respect rules, EVEN IF they don't like them. They is the rules

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joeblow 3 months, 1 week ago

The real question is WHY people smoke! When the root causes are addressed there will be no need to anesthetize the mind and emotions with drugs and excessive alcohol. The desire to smoke is a manifestation of a much bigger issue!

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SP 3 months, 2 weeks ago

We need to stop allowing politicians to control the countries narrative. The country is in the crapper and the people are suffering with no end in sight.

A "debate" on reparations for natural resources and how they will be realigned to benefit the populace and country at large should be DEMANDED front and center!

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sheeprunner12 3 months, 2 weeks ago

What????? ........ Let the black people get reparations from the Bay Street Boys??????? .............. SMDH

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SP 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Why not? If "the people" stand together, it could easily happen! "Talking" about it has accomplished nothing, and never will.

If we want change, we have to fight for it! Don't expect the Bay Street Boys and their crew of corrupt politicians to offer an olive branch!

Natural resources belong to the Bahamian people, not a few pirates and political lackeys.

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TalRussell 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Ma Comrade Braddas, the urgency for the decriminalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use is vital when we are jailing users and attaching negative stigmas to our people by burdening their characters with criminal records.
If the Bahamaland's tourism economy wants get back to attracting the much sort after tourism dollar it will continue to have to chiefly remain dependent on Americans vacationing on our islands and it's bad business to ignore the growing relaxation of marijuana use laws in US states,

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ThisIsOurs 3 months, 2 weeks ago

This is "manufactured" urgency and clear evidence Dr Minnis never had a plan. Sidetracked once again.

The real urgencies are crime, jobs, health and education. If these users cant bring it upon themselves to stop, even on fear of being caught, brought before a judge , fined, having their ability to travel to the US denied and rejected for employment, I say we have a SERIOUS problem with marijuana addiction.

I can see it now every employer in the country will start random drug screening, who wants the ballet guy, the surgeon, their lawyer, teacher, dentist, fork lift driver, policeman, mailboat captain...I could go on.. High? When you get fired for use on the job don't blame nobody. There won't be any "it's legal" excuse, alcohol is also legal and employers expect you won't be at work after having a few.

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joeblow 3 months, 1 week ago

Marijuana has had a "devastating" effect on communities, but we should have a conversation about it? Are these guys morons or what. You know the effect, but consider making access easier and expect to have a different outcome? We really need leaders with common sense!!

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SP 3 months, 1 week ago

Making and hiding behind unsubstantiated claims is a Bahamian politician specialty!

Exactly what is this "devastating" effect on communities marijuana has had? Why is it Bahamians are the only people on the planet where marijuana has had a "devastating" effect on communities?

The most "devastating" effect on communities and the entire country is political corruption and theft of the peoples' natural resources!

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ThisIsOurs 3 months, 1 week ago

2017 report from COLORADO. From a cbn.com news report originally posted by @joeblow:

  1. "Five years of retail pot coincide with five years of a homelessness growth rate that ranks among the highest rates in the country."

2."Five years of Big Marijuana ushered in a doubling in the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for marijuana"

3."Five years of commercial pot have been five years of more marijuana in schools than teachers and administrators ever feared."

4."drug violations reported by Colorado's K-12 schools have increased 45 percent in the past four years, even as the combined number of all other violations has fallen."

5."drug violations by high school aged students had increased by 71 percent since legalization."

6."Colorado ranks first in the country for marijuana use among teens, whole communities."

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SP 3 months, 1 week ago

From a cbn.com news report: Drinking alcohol is wrong!

http://www1.cbn.com/questions/is-drinking-alcohol-a-sin

<p>cbn.com is how you define your rationale? Get serious or go away!

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ThisIsOurs 3 months, 1 week ago

Your story about someone's "subjective" view on alcohol doesn't erase real FACTS, NUMBERS and STATISTICS. And I can't go away. this.is.mines

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Emac 3 months, 1 week ago

If I were the government, I would put it to the people. But the decriminalizing aspect should be carried out now without any further talks. Too many young people with great potentials have been marred by a joint. All in all though, how could the Bahamas go wrong by at least making it legal for medical purposes? The recreational use should be put on hold after more public debate. (And I am not referring to the weed heads whose argument is nonsensical)

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ThisIsOurs 3 months, 1 week ago

Whatever they decide to do is on them. But I'd like to see them acknowledge consider and mitigate what could go wrong. So nobody here can say "we didn't know", "we never thought it would be like this", "we didn't think about that" etc etc

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Emac 3 months, 1 week ago

You mean like the gambling tingy? 😁

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ThisIsOurs 3 months, 1 week ago

Yeah , democracy usually means someone didn't get what they want. But you would hope that the people that did really analyzed carefully the risks associated with their decision. Too often everyone is just interested in selling how wonderful it will be and how much money we'll have. I'll never forget Steve McKinney describing what a vote for the PLP would mean in 2012, he said "imagine you have a big trailer truck with money rolling down the road handing money out...".. People bought that crap

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SP 3 months, 1 week ago

The war on drugs failed just as the war on alcohol failed. People predisposed to cannabis will never stop using it and people against it will not suddenly begin using it.

Jamaican Law..up to 2 ounces are decriminalized, every household is allowed 5 plants legally per house.

http://turnertaxisandtoursjamaica.com/products/Negril-Marijuana-plantation-Tour-from-Montego-Bay-Hotels.html

Meanwhile, in the Bahamas, we're locking up tourist and destroying our people for "possession" of a joint!

TOO STUPID

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ThisIsOurs 3 months, 1 week ago

If I know it's against the law, that if I'm caught I'll have a record, won't be able to travel, maybe can't find a job..and I do it anyway ....is that the definition of smart or addiction?

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SP 3 months, 1 week ago

It's the definition of "personal choice"!

The same as cigarette smoking and excess alcohol consumption, both will kill you, yet people "DECIDE" to take the risk.

TOO STUPID!

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joeblow 3 months, 1 week ago

This is logic that may be difficult for some to follow!

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SP 3 months, 1 week ago

Bahamians love debating bullshit and reinventing the wheel!

Meanwhile, "Jamaica reports a record 4.3 million tourist arrivals in 2017"

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Record_4.3_million_tourist_arrivals_in_2017

You all are too damn stupid to get out of your own way!

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