Commission co-chairs Bishop Simeon Hall, left, and Quinn McCartney. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
BAHAMAS National Commission on Marijuana Co-Chairs Quinn McCartney and Bishop Simeon Hall yesterday insisted their Cabinet-appointed body was not on a fool’s errand.
Mr McCartney said the body is working to submit its report codifying the views of Bahamians on “all things related to cannabis” on deadline; however, its progress hinges on the completion of two fact-finding missions to Jamaica and Canada that have not yet been finalised.
Those missions will include meetings with key officials from the government and each country’s respective cannabis licensing authority.
A private firm has been commissioned to conduct a national survey, and the commission has staged town hall forums in Abaco, Eleuthera and Exuma. The commission is also calling for college students interested in contributing to research to apply for paid internship spots by noon on June 30.
The commission underscored the seriousness of its role as it provided a status update on efforts during a press conference at its headquarters on Augusta Street.
Consultations with private stakeholder groups have not yet begun, according to Mr McCartney, who said the commission hoped to conduct official meetings within the next two months.
Mr McCartney said: “All of us who serve on the commission feel that it’s a serious issue that faces our country, and it’s an issue that the government is taking seriously. So we don’t think it’s a waste of time.
“They’ve allocated a budget for us, they’ve given us the resources, they’ve appointed a commission that is representative of the entire Bahamian community, all spheres, so I think it’s a job they take seriously and we are taking it seriously.”
He continued: “Our job is to just advise the government, to give the government our opinion. We will make recommendations based on the views of the Bahamian public but also based on what’s available out there in terms of fact and fiction, literature, and best practices. So we intend to make a comprehensive, holistic report that touches on all aspects and our job is to advise the government, give our report to the government and they will be the ones to make the decision.”
The commission’s report will cover five aspects: the medical use of cannabis, for example for the treatment of diseases, improvement of symptoms and side-effects etc; the economic and industrial use of cannabis, for example for paper, alternative plastics, concrete, biofuels etc; the religious and ceremonial use of cannabis, for the Rastafarian community or other communities that may use it as part of their ceremonies; the recreational use of cannabis, regarding potency edibles, tourism and any other aspects in that area; finally, regulatory issues related to cannabis regarding age restrictions, legislative framework and other issues.
The BMC was granted a three-month extension to complete its work after missing its April deadline.
The commission’s update follows an announcement of pending legal action from the Bobo Ashanti - formally known as the Ethiopia Africa Black International Congress (EABIC) - over their right to sacramental use of cannabis.
Attorney General Carl Bethel and Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands have suggested Rastafarians wait until the commission has completed its report.
However, the suggestion has been soundly rebuffed by legal counsel Wayne Munroe.
Mr Munroe yesterday maintained his clients were not asking the government for permission to exercise their constitutional right to religious freedom, but instead sought to broker talks in a sensible manner on acceptable protocols.
Bobo Ashanti Elder Ethelbert Harrison, 50, said yesterday: “They question our transcendental state within the use of our sacrament, but we don’t get to question their transcendental state and their use of sacrament which is the Eucharist and the wine.”
Mr Harrison, known widely as Priest Diamond, continued: “So for us, to reach a transcendental state we use marijuana and that is how we get in a divine meditation with our deity.
“No one can question your personal relationship with your deity.”
The commission will host a town hall next Wednesday, June 26, at St John’s College auditorium, and Thursday, June 27, at Christ King Anglican Church in Grand Bahama.
Interested students can send their resumes to email@example.com.