HAVE MERCY: Survey reveals most Bahamians feel marijuana penalties too harsh

HAVE MERCY: Survey reveals most Bahamians feel marijuana penalties too harsh

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The legal ramifications for people convicted of cannabis possession are too harsh in The Bahamas, according to 62 percent of respondents surveyed in a recent Public Domain poll.

The survey, obtained by Eyewitness News, was conducted as part of The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana’s (BNCM) work to gauge the opinions of residents on cannabis and its related concerns.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents believed that if cannabis is decriminalized, individuals should be able to have in their possession fewer than one ounce without being arrested.

Meanwhile, 27 percent of those surveyed said the allowed amount should be one ounce; 12 percent said two ounces; and nine percent said three ounces or more.

Asked whether they believe screening for cannabis by potential employers should be allowed when applying for a job, 53 percent of people said yes/depending on the job and 42 percent said no.

However, 90 percent of respondents said anti-discrimination laws and/or policies should be put in place to protect employees who may have been prescribed medical cannabis.

The questions, posed between November 24 and December 14, with 1,000 respondents across The Bahamas, also assessed the view on alternatives to incarceration and other legal issues.

Sixty-two percent of respondents said people convicted of cannabis possession serve sentences that are too harsh; 24 percent said the sentences are fair/reasonable; five percent said they were too lenient; and nine percent said they did not know.

When asked whether they believe persons convicted for the possession of small amounts of cannabis should receive administrative penalties such as counseling or be required to participate in drug treatment programmes, 60 percent of respondents strongly agreed, 17 percent somewhat agreed, four percent somewhat disagreed and 16 percent strongly disagreed.

Fifteen percent of respondents strongly agreed that people convicted of possession of small amounts should be sentenced to fines, imprisonment and/or both, while 18 percent somewhat agreed, 16 percent somewhat disagreed and 47 percent strongly disagreed.

Forty-three percent of people surveyed strongly agreed that people who have been convicted and are currently serving time for simple possession of cannabis should be released with no restrictions, while 17 percent somewhat agreed, 10 percent somewhat disagreed and 27 percent strongly disagreed.

Additionally, the majority of respondents, 85 percent, said they either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed that individuals who have been convicted and are currently serving time for simple possession of cannabis should be released on probation and required to participate in a drug treatment program.

Eighty percent of those surveyed said they strongly agreed that records should be expunged if a person is convicted only once for possessing small amounts of cannabis for personal use.

The support, however, changed when respondents were asked whether people who have been convicted more than once or have been convicted for the sale of small quantities should have their records expunged.

Forty-six percent of respondents strongly agreed, 17 percent somewhat disagreed, 11 percent somewhat disagreed and 19 percent strongly disagreed that records should be cleared if the person was previously convicted more than once for possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use.

Additionally, 40 percent of respondents strongly agreed, 16 percent somewhat agreed, nine percent disagreed and 28 percent strongly disagreed that records should be expunged for people previously convicted for the sale of small quantities of cannabis.

About Sloan Smith

ssmith@ewnews.com Sloan has spent the past four years as a lead news writer immersed in the field, covering a range of investigative breaking news developments. She produces daily salient pieces on natural disasters, crime, politics, policy, human-interest, and socioeconomic realities.