As promised the Bahamas Christian council has released its report and paper on the Marijuana issue. The committee preparing this report was spearheaded by Pastor Dave Burrows and members of the committee included Pastor Lyall Bethel, Pastor Mario Moxey, Elder Sarone Kennedy and Pastor Kevin Harris.
The report was prefaced by the following preconsiderations:
- The Christian community is one of (if not the) largest single constituencies in the Bahamas and therefore its perspective must be heard and is critical to any national debate.
- The church is charged with guiding and encouraging the nation to live righteous and morally upright lives to position the nation for its best opportunity for self-discipline, productivity and success (As alluded to in our preamble regarding the respect for Christian and spiritual values)
- A nation is built better on principles and values that enhance positive living and family life rather than vices and excess.
- One of the strongest common denominators in reducing crime and eliminating drug use is through persons who have been impacted by the Christian Gospel. The track record of the Gospel impacting and resulting in a positive turnaround of persons with such issues is unparalleled.
Our report revolved around 6 fundamental questions as outlined below:
Will proposed legislative changes:
- Result in a net benefit for our country and our people?
- Will proposed legislation for either decriminalization or legalization lead to decreased levels of crime and a net positive effect on small use offenders.
- Will the proposed legislation lead to better citizens who are more educated, able to perform better professionally and are more productive?
- Will the proposed legislation lead to greater accessibility and result in an increase among children and youth?
- Will the social fallout from increased levels of use result in a spike in mental health issues?
- Will our society be economically improved in a way that does not compromise its values?
Extensive research was done referencing experiences of the states of Colorado and California which had readily available data and to a lesser extent references to Canada and Jamaica. Extensive research was also conducted regarding substantiated medical, social and mental health related outcomes in all of the countries mentioned although the USA possessed the majority of published and peer reviewed studies. Information was also acquired from local sources with extensive experience with marijuana from all perspectives. This research revealed the current complexities relating to marijuana decriminalization and legalization for recreational and or medical use. Some highlights from this research revealed:
- The need to clearly differentiate between CDB (non-intoxicating or non-psychoactive) and THC (psychoactive, psychotropic, intoxicating)
- Some benefits of medical usage for certain conditions (e.g. chronic pain)
- Negative impacts on physical health (including aggravating bronchitis)
- A decrease in arrest rate and incarceration rate for simple possession
- A significant usage increase among children and youth even though the legal age for use is 21
- A significant increase in mental health issues (psychosis, depression, homelessness)
- A significant increase in emergency room visits particularly among children and youth (marijuana overuse and edibles)
- An increase in black market growers to the point of driving legal growers out of business
- An increase in crime within the marijuana markets in both California and Colorado
Based upon our research and deliberation we came to the following conclusions and recommendations which are briefed in this release with the full context available through the attached published full report.
Our conclusions and recommendations were as follows:
- We do not favor incarceration and criminal records for small simple possession offences
- We do favor the maintenance of a non-criminal civil citation as a deterrent to expanded use
- We do not believe marijuana use should be condoned or encouraged as it is a mind altering potentially debilitating drug (to some at varying degrees) capable of several negative side effects such as marijuana induced psychosis, cognitive impairment, negative impact on the brain of users under the age of 21, and reduced productivity.
- We have no objection to medicinal use as long as it properly regulated and scientifically proven to be the best remedy for the condition prescribed
- Expungement of records is a matter that is currently being addressed by another National committee spearheaded by former Commissioner Paul Farquharson and we will defer to that body to await final recommendations of that committee before offering comment.
- We cannot agree to sanctioning marijuana for religious purposes due to the psychoactive impact, however Rastafarians would be sufficiently covered under the small use category and would not face criminal prosecution.
- We favor an urgent educational campaign informing both adults and youth on the impact of marijuana in its various forms (CDB, THC), especially regarding the mental health risks to younger persons and the danger of marijuana edibles which have contributed to increased emergency room visits in every jurisdiction where marijuana has been decriminalized.
- Resources allocated to mitigate against the social impact and fallout associated with increased usage especially programs designated as intervention and rehabilitation centers.
- The church is ready to partner with the state to assist with both education and rehabilitation.