By Ortland H. Bodie, Jr.
I smoked and inhaled my first marijuana joint in 1973 as a young adult. Prior to that I had a disdain for the same and all who were associated with it. No, I am not and have never been a prude nor an overt moralist. I simply do not and still do not believe in the ingestion of mind-altering, self-induced drugs or alcoholic beverages to the point of becoming incapacitated.
The Marijuana Commission has allegedly completed its mission objectives and is now ready to present the same to cabinet for discussion and I suppose implementation. Weeks before this, members of the commission and several high – pardon the pun – ranking politicians inclusive of the Most Honourable Prime Minister; the Minister of Education and at least one backbench house member, the Hon. Shannendon Cartwright (FNM-St. Barnabas) has come out in favour of decriminalization for ‘small’ amounts, some say up to an ounce, for recreational purposes and across the board for medical usage.
It alarms me that several ranking members of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), inclusive of the Leader, seem to have embraced this position. It is ironic the popularity of marijuana first emerged in a public way under the advocacy of the then-ruling PLP back in the early 1970s during the celebrated ‘Year of the Child’. Several of the then-leaders of the PLP and their wives played prominent roles in this advocacy.
I am able to speak with authority when it comes down to the benefits and negatives of marijuana usage because I was a user for many years. It would be interesting to hear or read whether current Members of Parliament and the Marijuana Commission ever ingested this dangerous drug or are still imbibing. If they are/were they would, I submit, be too ashamed and fearful of losing societal acceptance to admit it.
Quint McCartney is a former senior police officer. Bishop Simeon Hall is a prominent clergyman where the church he founded is located between Montell Heights (a known drug area) and Soldier Road/ Kennedy Subdivision and the Nassau Village community, all known to be drug areas. They would have both witnessed the negatives of marijuana usage. I am certain that McCartney must have arrested and charged countless Bahamians, of all ages, for illegal possession during his tenure on the force.
On the day that any proposed legislation is introduced in the House may I suggest that a medical doctor and his/her assistants be in one of the committee rooms to take blood and urine samples from ALL members who show up. Is it possible that some of them might be users? I would also want the religious leaders on the Marijuana commission to subject themselves, along with executives of The Bahamas Christian Council, to such a test.
This one draw debate is a distraction by the Most Honourable and his cabal to cause or attempt to cause the average Bahamian to forget, in the swirl of the ganja smoke, the high unemployment rate; sexual promiscuity throughout society; homelessness; pockets of poverty and the hardship of eking out a miserable living on a daily basis. What is the urgency about this timeless debate? Why now?
The Commission and the government are suggesting economic benefits and the possibility of ‘cures’ for all types of medical conditions, in the absence of any real empirical evidence. The quality of one’s life far outweighs any potential benefits marijuana might bring to the table or through the Bong. Marijuana, in its natural state, is not a benign drug. It is a gateway drug which appears harmless. After a visit by the late Robert ‘Bob’ Nestor Marley for the Year of the Child, hosted by the PLP and prominent wives of the then-leaders, the popularity and public consumption of ganja went through the roof .....high as a kite, literally.
Marijuana gives one a feeling of lightness; a sense of invincibility; possibly increased sexual desires; laughter and more. Some of the negatives are: dependency; hormone secretion; cancer; psychosis; decreased motor skills; infertility and bronchitis to name only a few. Clearly, the negatives outweighs the so-called benefits. Several international studies have demonstrated there are medical benefits and maybe we need to have further studies done. Recreational usage, however, is going to pose a serious societal and economic challenge.
The Commission, allegedly, is recommending a cut off age of 18 years for recreational drug procurement and usage. How will this work in reality? What is to stop an 18-year-old person buying the one ounce of weed and giving half of that to a 15 or 16-year-old individual? Nothing. Where will one access the purchase of the ganja - a pharmacy, a food store, a service station or possibly the foyer of a house of worship? How will it be licensed to cultivate; grow and distribute the same at the wholesale levels? Will the police have to beef up its manpower and related resources? Will a dedicated Drug Court be established?
Both the FNM and the PLP are playing with fire and smoke. The leadership in both parties seem to want to blow smoke right up our collective posteriors instead of tackling and solving the real issues and concerns. Usually, when I would have smoked and inhaled, I wanted to escape reality and just feel good for an hour or so. When the high came down, the realities still stared me right in my face. This one draw myth over marijuana is a diabolical and spiritual deception.