233 total votes.
THE Bahamas Christian Council does not support plans for a marijuana or a hemp industry, saying this is not the solution for the country’s woes.
The body released a statement days after Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced that his administration will begin the expungement of records of those convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana next year.
Dr Minnis also said the government is reviewing the possible legalisation of the hemp industry and will update the public on this after further consultation. Last week, it was also revealed that the Economic Recovery Committee has recommended that up to two ounces of marijuana be made legal for personal use, after similar suggestions were made by the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana.
In response, BCC said it is all too familiar with the devastating effects the sale, distribution and consumption of marijuana has had in the community. The group called for more consultation with religious leaders before any changes are made to the law, noting that Dr Minnis has not invited BCC or the church for consultation on the issue.
“We have seen first-hand the physical, emotional and mental damage this drug has had on the lives of countless families, leaving in its path a trail of destruction of homes, property and most importantly human lives,” BCC said in a statement.
“Schools as well as social workers have also struggled to cope and manage the anti-social behaviour of students within our school system who have been determined to use marijuana on an either frequent or infrequent basis. Reports are that young people using marijuana often struggle with attendance, missing countless days and hours of school and the ability to focus in class is a daily battle and more devastating are reports of physical confrontations with teachers and other students.
“Coupled with many other serious issues that the country is facing in recent times, including but not limited to, ongoing criminal activity such as murders that have included a number of innocent children, the impact of Hurricane Dorian and more recently the invasion of COVID-19, we like many Bahamians were a little surprised that the prime minister and his government would decide to still press forward with matters relating to marijuana when there are so many other more important matters that need addressing. We were equally taken aback by the recent announcement that the government was also considering introducing a ‘hemp Industry’ here in the Bahamas.
“The Bahamas Christian Council believes that marijuana or the introduction of a hemp industry is simply not the solution that the country is seeking or needs to address our many woes. We can also see no societal or national advantage with the proposals submitted to the Government by the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana.”
The BCC said no law should be changed in this regard until there is a nationwide comprehensive consultation process.
“It is also worthy to acknowledge that the prime minister has not mentioned, invited or sought to date any consultation with the Bahamas Christian Council or the church within the country on the above stated matters,” the group said.
“We have found that much too often church leaders and their members are pursued and courted by politicians especially when a general election is near, but we equally recognise the distance and treatment the church is given once political aspirants are successful.
“It is our belief that if the influence of the church is valued in pursuit of high office then equally the influence and the input of the church on important social matters regarding marijuana, should have been sought before being placed before the Parliament.”
The group urged the government to meet with social stakeholders as well as families affected by the drug before passing any laws. It also urged officials to consider the impact easing marijuana restrictions will have on the country’s “already fragile social and economic conditions”.