Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands.
By Leandra Rolle
Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands condemned death threats made towards Bishop Simeon Hall, co-chair of the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana, for his involvement with the group in conducting research on the drug.
“That’s a very unfortunate thing to hear that…there are individuals who might feel as if they would have to coerce somebody with threats in order to have their way of thinking,” Dr Sands told reporters at a nursing conference on Friday.
“We live in a democratic society and we have chosen to deal with these challenging issues and to have representative views put forward. The Marijuana Commission has been criticised for due process. They have taken on this task and they have sought to do it to the best of their ability. They are not rushing… So, I condemn anyone who believes that by threat of force they will change somebody's mind. I might not like what you say, but I will defend your right to say it.”
Last year, the commission was given its mandate by Cabinet to comprehensively examine issues surrounding the use of marijuana.
And although the commission has not yet taken a clear stance on whether the drug should be legalised in the country, Bishop Hall told Our News this week that he has received two death threats over his work with the commission.
His comment came days after Dr Hubert Minnis became the first sitting prime minister to publicly support some form of marijuana decriminalisation.
Dr Minnis told The Tribune last Sunday that he hopes the decriminalisation process will happen before the end of this term.
However, when asked about his stance on the issue, Dr Sands replied: "I have deliberately steered clear of opining either as a person or minister, and I'm going to continue to stay out of the fray. When we get the report, and when it's time for me to give a recommendation to the Cabinet, I think the public will hear how I feel about it."
He continued: “There are many people considering how this might work and what role it will play, et cetera, and I suspect that considerable thought is going into the what if medical marijuana is liberalised in the Bahamas....But the specifics, I think, ought to wait until recommendations are made and then the Cabinet of the Bahamas has to make changes in either policy or law.”
Dr Sands noted that there are many healthcare professionals who have expressed a desire to use the drug in a medicinal form to treat patients.
“There are people who’ve now requested to grow (the plant) or people who want to process and refine or so on and so forth, and our position has been 'hold your horses'. It's not long before we have the definitive position of the Marijuana Commission that would guide the deliberations of the Cabinet and then we'll come back to the Bahamian public and let them know," he said.
Speaking to The Tribune this week, Bishop Hall's co-chair on the commission, Quinn McCartney, said they are working vigorously to present the preliminary report to Cabinet by the end of this month and the final report in early January.
Mr McCartney said the commission remains committed to providing a comprehensive report that is supported by its research.