679 total votes.
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
PHENTON Neymour, former Minister of State for the Environment, yesterday announced his support for medical marijuana, claiming the treatment saved his life when he was battling stage three colon rectal cancer.
Mr Neymour stressed he would not support the legalisation of marijuana for recreational use; however, the former Cabinet minister criticised the government for taking such a weak stance on the issue given the prevalence of non-communicable diseases in the country.
Yesterday, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands said he personally supports the use of medical marijuana; however, the government’s position is that it will be guided by regional analysis at CARICOM.
Dr Sands reiterated his call for the public to temper expectations of medical marijuana as a cure-all for every illness, and the answer to all economic woes.
In response to Dr Sands’ scepticism over whether there was a sustainable local market, Mr Neymour said he believed resistance among government officials stemmed from ignorance.
“It is something that saved my life,” Mr Neymour said. “I had no appetite, I couldn’t eat, nausea, felt bad all the time. Once I take the pill the only thing I did was fall asleep, the pill takes out that element that causes you to get high. Most government officials haven’t done their research.
“Only for medical reasons,” he said of his support for this type of therapy. “It must be certain guidelines put in place, and only prescribed by a doctor. I do not support recreational use of marijuana but I do support (medical use), it has many values.”
Mr Neymour said he was diagnosed in February 2014, and has used the drug Marinol, a man-made form of cannabis, to restore his appetite, combat nausea and relieve pain. However, he said he had to travel to Miami each time he needed relief.
“I’ve battled it (cancer) ever since, been in remission but it comes back in different forms and different places. I went into remission twice. It is something that was truly a battle.”
Mr Neymour said: “When doctors had given up in the States, they actually gave me a prescription for it but it’s illegal in the Bahamas. It comes in a pill form, looks just like chocolate. But I had to travel to Miami, if I felt really bad I had to go to Miami just to purchase it to use it there.
“It is something Bahamians are being denied because we are playing politics because we don’t have the testicular fortitude as politicians to speak what they know.”
Mr Neymour said he has been in remission twice, and is currently cancer-free.
He believes his life is an example of how persons can continue to live and enjoy life once they receive the proper treatment.
“I couldn’t have succeeded without God,” he said. “It’s natural methods I’ve used in the past that worked best. If you Google it, soursop (a local fruit) is found to be the best natural treatment for cancer so what I do today is I boil the leaves and drink it as a tea.”
The government has said it will be guided by CARICOM’s Regional Marijuana Commission (RMC) on the issue. The body was tasked in 2014 to fully ventilate the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding marijuana use in the Caribbean.
Of this position, Mr Neymour said: “I think it’s a weak position to justify it because if one looks at the number of Bahamians doing it now and there are examples of success, the government would not oppose the introduction.
“The problem is the pharmaceutical companies are leading this. The US has realised they’ve lost the battle. It’s being used as medicine around the world. If you’re elected and only concerned about the vote, then you will act a certain way.”
He added: “I suggest government take a scientific survey, and they will be shocked by the results.”
A recent Public Domain survey has found overwhelming support for medical marijuana among Bahamian residents across demographics of age, gender and income.
For his part, Dr Sands said he does not want Bahamians to get their hopes up that medicinal marijuana will be a cure-all.
“The perception is, it’s going to replace diabetes medicine, hypertension medicine, that it’s going to be the be-all and cure-all. I’m not trying to burst anybody’s bubble, simply trying to introduce a level of calm and caution here.
“I personally support it. But when you now hear all these people saying we’re gonna make millions of dollars and fix our national debt…really?”
Dr Sands believes the end goal for marijuana advocates is recreational adult use, but noted countries on this track have been on a path towards decriminalisation for more than a decade.
He acknowledged the status quo was shifting to a paradigm that moved beyond a sanitised view of the plant to where more and more people were accepting of recreational use.
“We don’t even have the ability to talk about gender equality, we don’t have the ability to talk about safe sex, abortion, much less recreational marijuana. We don’t talk about any of those things, there are a number of loud voices and I applaud them trying to change our consciousness.”
Dr Sands said: “Similar to voices heard in the US and around the world at the end of prohibition, a similar set of voices resulted in the end of slavery, the tear down of apartheid. And while this is an example of freeing your mind, the translation into economic viability in the medical marijuana arena is a major step, because it then presumes the ability that you are going to have a market.”