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Editorial: As The World Steps Forward, Once Again We Drag Our Feet

WHAT exactly does The Bahamas want its position to be when it comes to marijuana?

For a long time, there has been a growing sense things must change with regard to marijuana laws – not least of all for the field of medical marijuana, but perhaps even for those who find themselves locked away for years for recreational use.

Let’s not pretend that this isn’t a daily issue for The Bahamas. Routinely, The Tribune receives statements from the police about the seizure of marijuana and the arrests of those in possession of it. We hear about fields of marijuana being discovered – one press release recently told of how officials flying over an area could smell the pungent scent of the plants in a field below, leading to its discovery and destruction.

Even Downtown, with as many police as there are there, it is not uncommon for passers-by to be offered the drugs for sale in broad daylight.

Conversely, last week saw the 47th annual scientific conference of the Medical Association of The Bahamas, with Dr Michelle Weiner among the speakers. She is a leader in the field of medical cannabis and CBD oil – and spoke at length about the subject.

She is leading the way, however, across the water in the United States. Here in The Bahamas, progress on the topic has been considerably slower.

A government committee was to review marijuana criminalisation laws, but it appears to have shown little if any sign of actual reviewing. In September, Bishop Simeon Hall bemoaned that no one had yet been appointed to the committee, and when things finally got moving, he noted the country was “behind” on consultation.

In the midst of this lack of progress, there are now concerns about CBD oil being brought into the country – but confusion about whether it is being imported legally or not.

Clarity – and equality – is needed. If someone is arrested for a few ounces of illegal drugs on a street corner while someone else gets away with selling the oil version of an illegal drug in a store, there is clearly an issue. Justice should not be enforced dependent on the suspect’s bank balance.

So where do we go from here? It would be good if the government could lay out a road map of where it wants to go in terms of whether it wants to decriminalise or legalise marijuana, and the timescale it envisages bringing legislation to the House if so. It should also consider carefully what happens with those making money illegally at present in the trade – and what happens to those individuals if a transition takes place.

The progress seems to be unhurried, but we should bear in mind there is an urgency for those continuing to face our courts on a regular basis. We wonder if it is truly necessary for the lives of so many young people to be blighted by a court case and a jail sentence for a very small amount of marijuana. 

QC Fred Smith on Page 7 of today’s Tribune poses all the questions we need to ask - why are we waiting? We are behind the curve when it comes to facing questions over the future of marijuana – both medically and recreationally. It is past time we caught up.

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