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Sands Disappointed At 'Bias' In Report

Health Minister Dr Duane Sands.

Health Minister Dr Duane Sands.

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

HEALTH Minister Dr Duane Sands yesterday attacked the scientific credibility of CARICOM's report on marijuana, expressing disappointment over its methodology and "intrinsic bias".

Dr Sands' critique follows Bishop Simeon Hall's suggestion that opposition to calls for medical marijuana and an end to prohibition came from special interest groups in the medical community.

Bishop Hall was part of CARICOM's Regional Marijuana Commission (RMC), which studied issues related to marijuana prohibition for the past two years.

The pastor backed the recently released regional report, stating he was convinced the plant was criminalised in the 1930s to protect the interest of liquor merchants following the end of America's prohibition of alcohol.

Yesterday, Dr Sands said he personally believed marijuana should be liberalised for both medicinal and recreational use but could not ignore the lack of scientific data in the report.

"The methodology is suspect," Dr Sands said. "I'm trying to be as progressive as I can but as I read this paper, I hear some implicit or intrinsic bias coming out that these are persons who want this outcome. It's as if I write a paper solely to support my position so, notwithstanding the fact there is clearly an appetite for change, I look at this paper and see that this could be a problem.

"Look at the methods, what you come to realise is the methodology used is unfortunately a bit suspect, that doesn't mean I will change my approach or how I feel about this. But I have to encourage the (Ministry of Health) technical team to look at this because of the implications for policy," he continued. "There is very little science in this paper, where is the data?"

Bishop Hall suggested the push for regulated use of marijuana represented a call to return to natural, non-synthetic medicine, in a press statement on Monday.

"This call is being made to the annoyance of some doctors, pharmacists and insurance companies," his statement read.

"The statistics I have studied as a member of the CARICOM Commission on marijuana over the last two years, clearly show that this 'herb' which grows on every island nation in this region has medicinal value and can be used as raw material for other positive purposes."

Bishop Hall implored the government to engage in its own study on the issue, particularly medical marijuana, with a view to help the "least - the lost and the left out."

His statement continued: "The analysis of the comprehensive information gathered, indicates that the current legal regime for cannabis characterised as it is by prohibition and draconian criminal penalties is ineffective, incongruous, obsolete and unjust. Cannabis/marijuana is a victimless crime. Persons using this herb can end up with harsher penalties than those convicted of serious victim-based crimes.

"Without question, there is a clear public opinion in favour of legal reform to existing laws on cannabis and the removal of prohibition."

The CARICOM Commission was tasked to conduct "a rigorous enquiry into the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding marijuana use in the Caribbean and to determine whether there should be a change in the current drug classification of marijuana thereby making the drug more accessible for all types of usage (religious, recreational, medical and research); and to recommend, if there is to be a re-classification, the legal and administrative conditions that should apply."

It was convened in June 2016 but suspended after the first national consultation was held in St Vincent and the Grenadines, due to a lack of funding. After funding was obtained from the Foundation to Promote Open Society (OSF), national consultations resumed a year later in June 2017.

The report's methodology states mixed methods were used to gather information with primary data obtained from national consultations, comprising national public meetings and focus groups. While the commission made itself available to all member states, only nine of the 15 countries took part in national consultations: St Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Suriname, Montserrat, St Kitts & Nevis, Belize and the Bahamas. Dominica's consultation was cancelled due to Hurricane Maria's passage; Trinidad could not accommodate within the time period; and there was no response from St Lucia. Jamaica had already amended its marijuana laws, and subsequently was not prioritised due to funding constraints.

The commission noted there were time and budgetary constraints for conducting national surveys, so public town hall meetings were utilised for open discussion and clarification of issues where such necessity arose. It acknowledged views expressed at public forums did not necessarily reflect the opinions of the entire population; however, stated this shortcoming was supplemented by focus groups and an online survey, and questionnaires for regional police.

"A challenge arises with the reliability of focus groups, town hall meetings and social media surveys, that is, whether the same results would be obtained under the same circumstances if repeated at a different time," the report read. "All three methods lack specificity to national populations. Further, given the illegal status of marijuana it was difficult to ascertain accurate use patterns from the adult population and they are likely to be under-reported.

"The commission is, however, satisfied that it was able to harness wide and representative views on legal policy on cannabis/marijuana in the region, which adequately informs this report," the document notes.

For his part, Dr Sands said he was particularly disappointed that some of CARICOM's largest member states were not canvassed, such as Jamaica, Trinidad, or Antigua. A petition seeking to legalise cannabis with over 9,500 signatures from Trinidad and Tobago was received, according to the report.

Dr Sands said notwithstanding those countries have already made strides towards liberalisation, their data was still critical to validating assumptions.

"How do we now say this is representative of CARICOM?" Dr Sands questioned.

Comments

ThisIsOurs 5 days, 14 hours ago

Completely agree. The woman from Caricom come here and speak to a church hall full of Rastas and then made a public statement that "clearly there's overwhelming support to legalize it". If that's how they built this report, it's crap.

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joeblow 4 days, 21 hours ago

There is no bias in the report, it is simply a statement of CARICOM's intent!

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ThisIsOurs 4 days, 15 hours ago

A report doesn't have to have bias to be unscientific. Dr Sands is actually agreeing with the premise that marijuana might have some good use. Where he has a problem is with the quality f the report that's been submitted to him as the foundation for his decision. All I said is if that lady's visit to the Bahamas was constructed as "evidence of support from Caribbean nation", their methods are crap.

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rawbahamian 5 days, 12 hours ago

If they do legalize it, can you imagine the vast amount of illegal drug dealers would go out of business overnite because you would be able to get your nicely packaged weed in resealable containers right over the counter in all of the pharmacies, drug stores, convenience stores etc.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 5 days, 11 hours ago

Don't be such an arse. The illegal money laundering activities of the numbers bosses that were purportedly 'legalized' did not put them out of business. Instead the illegal enterprises of the numbers bosses were made financially much stronger then before because the corrupt politicians 'owned' by the big numbers bosses were essentially given a monopoly through corrupt licensing that closed off all competition to their web shop and other related businesses. The same would be true for the big Jamaican-connected players in the illegal marijuana business today. Our corrupt politicians would grant them a monopoly for years to come through 'selective licensing' and they would thrive like never before. You must be totally brain dead if you think attempted 'legalization' of marijuana would put the major drug dealers out of business. Quite the contrary would in fact be true!

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ThisIsOurs 5 days, 6 hours ago

No it won't put the big people out of business. My belief is it will create two groups the mega rich dealers and the farm labourers. The big people will have the money to create an experience around their product. I also don't believe it will end the drug wars. It hasn't in California, those growers are under constant threat from armed raiders. And I keep wondering where the market is, the market for illegal drugs isn't the Bahamas, those guys get rich using the Bahamas as a transshipment point to the US. they're not trying to make their business on selling their product to tourists and locals.

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Greentea 5 days, 10 hours ago

The vast majority of Bahamians I believe would vote to legalize it. look at the tribune's poll. Its at 91% approval though only for medical marijuana.

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DWW 5 days, 9 hours ago

Where is the empirical evidence that Marijuana is in fact as claimed the "Devil Weed"? Please Dr Sands, point out a few journals or or original studies showing the purported ill effects of Ganja? Does it make one violent? does it make darkies think they are white? would it make one kill one's brother? will it make one a murderer or communist? Please show me the raw empirical data Dr. Sands. Perhaps when fighting propaganda, one must use propaganda?

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ThisIsOurs 5 days, 6 hours ago

You missed his point, he didn't say anything about ill effects of marijuana, unlike Dr .minnis who doesn't know anything about research,all Dr Sands said is that the method used to create this report is unscientific. Basically it's poofery. He said "there's no data". It's based on supposition and conjecture. Now that supposition and conjecture could be 100% correct but scientists don't base decisions on conjecture. That's the sum total of what he said.

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Chucky 5 days ago

Come on people; look at the big picture. We "elect" a government , one over another, because we like their promises to "serve us" . For the last almost 100 years the government's of the world have been so "concerned " about the use of marijuana that they were willing to implement laws to make its use illegal, and they've been willing to prosecute and imprison (i.e. put you in a cage) the people they serve , to protect them.

Don't you think we should now be concerned that they for some reason , no longer strive to protect us in this same manner.

If "we the people" (to borrow a phrase from Americans) had any brains at all, we'd storm that big house on the hill and throw them all out for good and cancel all the "laws they been "serving" us with.

Everything government does is about control and enriching themselves and their buddies, democracy is an illusion; while it's true we elect, everything beyond the electing is a farce. You essentially "legitimize the leader who screws you over by electing him/her"

This is not a moral debate about the pros and cons of marijuana, this is simply the politics of selling the people on the next phase screwing us over.
If PLP and FNM are both supporting this , it just means that they will share the wealth of this next scam amongs their common friends.

The people of the Bahamas, and all other countries don't count, the people who matter, the ruling class , they will benefit, and only them.

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joeblow 4 days, 22 hours ago

History has shown the outcome is not any better even when you overthrow your despots. Just take a look at Europe, you simply trade one maggot for another kind of maggot!

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joeblow 4 days, 22 hours ago

It is amazing to me that with all this talk about how benign marijuana is we have not heard from any doctors, specifically psychiatrists on this matter!

I would really like to hear from those who may interact with patients who suffer the adverse effects of marijuana not the biased views of its users!

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ohdrap4 4 days, 21 hours ago

they also neglect to say that frequent use of marijuana in youth create sexual impotence by age 40. Go tell that on the mountains

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Alex_Charles 4 days, 18 hours ago

pshhh, as is smoking Beedie hasn't already done that. This is the nation of big juicers, no amount of Cannabis is going to change that, and if it does, maybe the 70% of out-of-wedlock births would go down.

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hrysippus 4 days, 16 hours ago

What lies you post. Are you posting while drunk again?

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