Church encourages govt. to form position and put question to the nation
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Although the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) has yet to form a definitive position of the issue of marijuana in The Bahamas, BCC President Bishop Delton Fernander said he believes the messaging on the issue needs to be streamlined and a clear question put to the Bahamian people based on what the government in minded to do.
The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana plans to submit its report to Cabinet early this month.
The report is expected to address the medical, industrial, economic, religious and ceremonial, and recreational use of cannabis, as well as research and development – codifying Bahamian attitudes on plant use.
The commission’s recommendations will be tabled and discussed in Parliament.
The church was among the stakeholders the commission canvassed as part of its consultative process on the issue.
Asked about the Christian Council’s position, Fernander said the church is awaiting that report, and for the government to streamline its message and put the question to the church, other stakeholders and the Bahamian people
“It would appear that the committee was just informational,” he told Eyewitness News Online.
“I mean they just wanted information of different denominations and churches feeling on the matter. Now that they have that, I think the response from the council will be based on what that report says because we could not really read whether they had a slant or what they are specifically targeting. So, we wait to see what that paper produces and then we will then have our official response to what is being recommended.”
When asked if the council had consideration of some use of the substance, Fernander said the church originally felt the commission was focused on medical marijuana, but there were various interests represented.
“I would say that the challenge that the committee has is that the message is scattered,” he said.
“That is why you have got to wait on the paper. You’ve got the Rastafarians saying legalize it for worship purposes. You’ve got some saying small quantities, so I mean, what question are you asking the church? It’s really not a question to the church because they haven’t firmed up the messaging.
“I don’t think they were just focusing on medical marijuana, so that right there, I think we felt they were focusing on medical marijuana, but you had the small quantities argument. You had the Rastafarian, religious purposed argument. You had the Hemp argument. You had a colossal mixing of ideas by the committee and I don’t know if it was ever streamlined to ‘this is what we want The Bahamas to be’ and I think when it does happen, then we could say yay or nay — not that we are the only voice, but I think you’ve to put the question to the nation in a form of what you want to do. And really, we won’t be answering the report. We will be answering what is the intention of the government of the day.”
Fernander opined there could be some disappointed commission members, who have an interest in a specific use of the substance. I was an apparent reference to the the Rastafarian community, which followed through on a threat to sue the government in June for the right to use cannabis in their religious sacrament in June.
Attorney General Carl Bethel and Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands encouraged them to wait until the commission had completed its report.
Fernander foreshaowed that there could be some very disappointed fractions, noting that the Rastarfarian community in The Bahamas put on hold legal action of their right to use the substance for religious reasons to be a part of the commission and the consultative process.
Commission co-chair Quinn McCartney has projected The Bahamas could see some form of regulation, not dissimilar to Jamaica’s heavily regulated model, within a short period of time.