Marijuana reform is “red herring”

Marijuana reform is “red herring”
Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC, yesterday suggested the prime minister’s recent public support for marijuana reform is a thinly-veiled political stunt.

Munroe renewed criticisms over a “false narrative” surrounding the discussion to decriminalize marijuana in The Bahamas, pointing to existing legislation that allows the use of the drug in the country.

His comments follow the recent public support of Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis for decriminalizing possession of small amounts and expunging convictions.

Minnis has called national reform a matter of social justice.

Yesterday, Munroe questioned the timing of the prime minister’s proclamations.

“I suspect somebody says this will make you look good,” he told Eyewitness News.

“I suspect they said to him young people are stupid. These stupid young people aren’t going to check and see that you are not doing anything new for them because they are just dumb like that.

“They are D average, so you can swing these dumb young people to support you by making them believe you are doing something for them, when you are doing absolutely nothing for them.

Munroe said: “Now if we are going to debate young people not going to court, let’s do so honestly.”

Despite the global trend toward decriminalization, marijuana has remained controversial topic with significant opposition in The Bahamas.

Munroe, who represents members of the Rastafarian community in a law suit against the government, noted yesterday that avenues for expunging criminal records and the usage of medicinal marijuana are already legislated.

He called both issues, “red herrings”.

“The policy of the drug court for people found with small quantities of marijuana is to impose a conditional discharge,” Munroe explained.

“The condition being you get drug treatment and that you stay drug free.

“…Even if you ended up with a sentence because you came before a magistrate who didn’t really understand the policy or you didn’t satisfy the condition, the conviction would be expunged by operation of law in 1991.

“The period of time was after seven years. It was reduced in 2015 to five years for adults, two and a half years for minors.

“That rehabilitation committee the prime minister is talking about is for the early expunging largely of indictable offenses like burglary, like serious offenses where you are convicted before a jury and so the law is there.”

Munroe said Minnis was in Parliament during the time of these amendments and should have participated in the debates.

As for the use of medicinal marijuana, Munroe noted that the Minister of Health does have powers under the Dangerous Drugs Act to approve the use of the substance.

“All is takes sir, if you want a homeopath to use it, is a stroke of your pen,” he said.

Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands has said that his ministry has received applications to get approval to use the drug.

However, he noted in March that it would “not be reasonable” to approve licenses while the marijuana commission attempts to examine the issue of the drug in The Bahamas.

On Monday, Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper called on the prime minister to “act on his convictions”.

But Sands maintained at Cabinet yesterday that the government will await the commission’s report.

“You know when I lick my finger and hold it up in the wind, because the wind is blow, that’s how policy is created I guess by the opposition,” Sands retorted.

“We have taken a path of looking at the data, determining what is appropriate and fit for The Bahamas.

“I believe that the marijuana commission has done an excellent built of work. They are almost done with their preliminary report.

“Let them report and then we will action it. Why it this such an emergency now that it should be done today or tomorrow.

“I didn’t hear the deputy leader of the opposition speaking about this three years ago.”

In an interview with Eyewitness News, Munroe said he has no confidence in the report methodology.

Rastas sue

Munroe’s Rastafarian clients are seeking damages and the expunction of marijuana related convictions from their criminal records.

He noted yesterday that they are still in the process of creating the statement of claim for the case.

“The other part of the narrative that has been totally ignored by the prime minister is the sacrament of the se of marijuana,” Munroe said.

“These are people who say their conscientious belief calls for them to do. Just as Catholics broadly believe intaking communion, the sacrament of Rastafari is marijuana.

“…The rights of Rastafari have been oppressed in The Bahamas.”