NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) has released its position paper on proposed cannabis reform, giving the green light only for medicinal use.
The council said it could not condone recreational or sacramental use due to the psychoactive impact of the plant.
The BCC expressed support for the maintenance of a non-criminal civil citation as a deterrent to expanded use, noting it did not support incarceration and criminal records for “small simple possession”.
In a press release, the council suggested Rastafarians would be spared from criminal charges if arrested for small amounts.
“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,” the statement read.
“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.”
It continued: “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.”
The BCC report focused on whether proposed legislative changes would result in net economic and social benefit for the country that would not compromise its values.
It also asked whether there will increased exposure to young people or social fallout from a spike in mental health issues due to increased levels of use.
The council said it conducted extensive research, noting the states of Colorado and California had readily available data but their search also extended to Canada and Jamaica.
“This research revealed the current complexities relating to marijuana decriminalization and legalization for recreational and or medical use,” the BCC stated.
Highlights from this research revealed: “the need to clearly differentiate between CDB (non-intoxicating or non-psychoactive) and THC (psychoactive, psychotropic, intoxicating); the benefits of medical usage for certain conditions (e.g. chronic pain); and negative impacts on physical health (including aggravating bronchitis)”.
The council said findings underscored a decrease in the arrest rate and incarceration rate for simple possession, but a significant usage increase among children and youth notwithstanding the legal age for use is 21.
It further pointed to significant increase in: mental health issues (psychosis, depression, homelessness); emergency room visits for overuse and edibles; black market growers; and an increase in crime within the marijuana markets in both California and Colorado.
The BCC added it is ready to partner with the government to assist with education and rehabilitation.
It called for resources to be allocated to mitigate against the social impact and fallout associated with increased usage, like intervention and rehabilitation centers.
“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,” the statement read.
The statement added: “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.”