AT long last, the report of the commission tasked with considering changes to our laws on marijuana has been tabled in Parliament.
We have known for some time of course what it was likely to say – but the final version of the report did have some changes, and its tabling marks the point at which it’s over to the government to take action.
Some questions remain for government to consider – for example, one of the changes is to allow unlimited growth of marijuana plants by people who have been prescribed it for medical purposes, and government will want to ensure that measures are in place to ensure that doesn’t become a grey market where people sell it rather than just have it for personal use.
The biggest story is the recommended decriminalisation of possession of marijuana of up to an ounce. That would only be for people 21 and over – so what about the 18-year-old caught with a joint? Is it still off to jail for him? That seems to run against the government’s talk of clearing criminal records for young people guilty of minor crimes.
Even as he tabled the report, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis spoke again about that, saying “we must stop stigmatizing many of our young people and citizens”.
That’s true – and there seems very little point in having people in jail cells over such minor offences, and less point still in leaving them with a record that can affect travel, make finding a job harder and making life more difficult.
At the same time, we hope that while the decriminalisation may get people back on a clearer path that it doesn’t serve as an encouragement for excessive use. Prison is not the only side effect of use – some suffer memory problems for use, some get panic attacks and just as drinking at work would be unwise, so would be taking marijuana at work except for medicinal use. We also hope there will remain vigilance over stronger types of marijuana which can have greater negative effects.
There is a lot still to examine – we hope that it won’t simply serve as a money maker for foreign investors, for example, to the detriment of Bahamians who could establish the industry themselves – but it seems that the time for change has come.
Govt passed the laws, now use them
Another cruise ship has discharged waste into Bahamian waters – this time a Norwegian Cruise Line vessel. The details of what was discharged and where were not revealed by Transport Minister Renward Wells – there’s that lack of transparency again – but he quickly added that such discharges will not be tolerated. Well, plainly they will – until such time as the law is used to back up such words.
On the positive side, the latest incident was voluntarily reported to the Bahamas Maritime Authority, which at least shows a willingness to be honest about the situation, but nonetheless, now that laws are in place to allow The Bahamas to take action, it’s time to put them to the test.
“Those who have breached our environmental laws will be made to account,” thundered Mr Wells in Parliament. He went on to say “Your government is moving forward on behalf of The Bahamas to tighten, monitor and enforce our environmental law and protections across the board”. Really? We thought the government had already done that with the Environmental Planning and Protection Act last year. You need more laws now? In January, the Attorney General was suggesting the government would pursue Carnival Cruise Lines for compensation over its dumping offences – do we suddenly need more tightening of laws since last month?
Instead, Mr Wells seems to have resorted to… drawing a map? He says a line has been drawn around the Bahamian archipelago and the shipping industry has been advised that anything within that line constitutes Bahamian waters. We’re pretty sure ship captains have known for a long time whether they’re within Bahamian waters or not.
Then in his next breath he says he wants the cruise industry to fund studies of data and remediation costs for environmental damage.
That doesn’t sound quite so thundering. You don’t need to go cap in hand to the possible offenders, Mr Wells, those found guilty will be fined and that money will go into the public purse to cover such costs.
Unless, of course, there’s no real intention to take such offenders to court. We shall be watching closely.