By INIGO 'NAUGHTY' ZENICAZELAYA
Finally the topic of legalising Marijuana has been sparked (no pun intended) in The Bahamas.
After years of secretive back room discussions, it appears the citizenry of the 242 want their voices to be heard loud and clear. Both those who are pro, aswell as those con on the issue, eant their voices and contributions to the debate to be heard.
A recent Tribune poll showed that 77.78% of Bahamians agreed that Marijuana should be decriminalised, while 22.28% believe it should not.
A town hall meeting organised by CARICOM’s Regional Commission on Marijuana on Friday night drew strong positions from those attending.
Those in attendance were lively and passionately in favour of the decriminalisation and legalisation of marijuana.
However, it remains to be seen how accurately the audience represented all Bahamians’ views.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis will devote a day of Cabinet meetings to discuss marijuana and marital rape with his ministers, according to Press Secretary Anthony Newbold.
“Cabinet will spend a day discussing that and will have that discussion before any other movement is made with respect to that. The prime minister has said and continues to emphasise that whatever happens, the Bahamian people must have a say in whatever that final decision is determined to be. That decision will be made after the Bahamian people have had an opportunity to weigh in extensively on that issue just like any other.”
Wow, a whole day dedicated to discussing the matter.
We have many pertinent issues nationally that need to be adressed, so to see a whole day devouted by the government to one matter, tells me said matter is one of importance. And may hold a lot more weight than people think.
I applaud Dr Minnis’ bravado in putting such a sensative issue to the citizens of The Bahamas, for their input on the matter.
Now, hopefully, he will take heavily in to consideration the wishes of the people, like he has stated, before making any final decision on the topic.
The reviews are mixed among the Minnis cabinet.
Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest told reporters: “I do not subscribe to this train of thought, The Bahamas must chart the way for itself. Whatever steps the country takes should align with its own traditions, culture and values.”
State Minister for Legal Affairs Elsworth Johnson also emphasised that to ensure the conversation about legalising or decriminalising marijuana persists, activists and agents of change must organise and prepare themselves properly and efficiently in presenting their views, inorder to make an impact on government.
Minister of National Security 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.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield said: “No reasonable person can deny the country must examine laws that criminalise people caught with small amounts of the substance.”
Based on these various responses from learned individuals in the present administration, as well as the citizenry, “Dis ga be long.”
Might I suggest, as we do with almost everything else, pull a page out of our neighbours to the North’s books. (The PLP did it with their “Spy Bill”, the FNM with “Fake News”, so why not?)
It seems the Americans are onto something both financially and socially. Portugal and Urugay are two other models that can also be drawn upon for critical analysis, but since we like to “follow fashion” of the good ole USA, we can note there are seven states that have legalised recreational marijuana, and 27 states that have legalised marijuana for medicinal use.
The information and statistics from those states would be start.
Of the many concerns when discussing decriminalisation, Bahamian youth no longer facing travel bans, lingering police records, unemployment etc. for being caught with minor amount of marijuana ranks at the top. Decriminalisation on small recreational ammounts is long over due.
A good model of this is the District of Columbia, which decriminalised recreational marijuana, making it legal for residents to carry up to two ounces of cannabis and own six plants. However, it’s still illegal to purchase pot in the district, or to be found in possession of amounts over the legal limits.
The legalisation of recreational marijuana gives rise to a whole new economy surrounding the production of cannabis, oils, lotions, edibles and paraphernalia.
(I bet Rastafarians in The Bahamas would love this... “Irie nuts...Irie erryting!”)
Medicinally, marijuana is legal in more than half the states in America, and just as there is a market there, we have one here. Countless Bahamians suffer from many debilitating illnesses who may benefit immensely from medicinal marijuana.
We must objectively look at the pros and cons of the entire matter, the benificial effect it could have on so many levels locally, if we decriminalised or introduced medical and recreational marijuana and come to a decision.
I have no idea where the national conversation on cannabis is going but I’m impressed we now feel mature enough as a nation to even have the conversation.
Next week, part two, the financial benefits and social questions of legalising Marijuana, as well as its effect on crime.
Until next week, be safe, I’m off to catch “Cheech and Chong Up in Smoke” on Netflix, how ironic this is on, all things considered.