Rastafarians urge Christian Council to join marijuana reform fight to help people with criminal records

Rastafarians urge Christian Council to join marijuana reform fight to help people with criminal records

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The House of Rastafari (HOR) yesterday called on the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) to join the fight to help people with criminal records for minor charges of marijuana possession.

The Christian Council has expressed staunch opposition to marijuana reform and the potential introduction of a hemp industry.

On Monday, the BCC president Bishop Delton Fernander said the council is concerned that the government may be “experiencing a nudge by individuals or groups with a special interest in marijuana be they economic or otherwise”.

He added the prime minister has not mentioned, invited, or sought to date any consultation with the Bahamas Christian Council or the church within the country on these matters.

In a statement responding to the comments, Copeland “Ras Amen” Smith, Royal Ambassador of HOR said marijuana reform has the ability to “reduce crime, save lives, boost the economy via the establishment or liberation of an industry”.

“An Industry that has the potential to heal you, clothe you, and feed you.”

Smith underscored reform should not be discussed in a vacuum and should be looked at when discussing food security, health, financial services, and crime.

He argued that despite opposition by the BCC over marijuana’s psychological effects, even top scientists are divided in their conclusions on marijuana inducing psychosis.

The BCC sought to encourage the government to meet with all stakeholders before passing any laws relating to the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana or the expungement of records of those convicted for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
But Smith said the issue must be addressed immediately.
“The criminal justice system that is in place right now is not a fair one, and there is a particular disadvantage based on race and based on class,” he added
“There is a racial and economic inequity in the prison system in our country and that’s something that should raise red flags for all religious faiths.
“We are our brother’s keeper. Our job is to look out for one another and to support one another when the system is failing.” 
Smith urged the council to “put your faith in action” and join the national effort to help people who have had criminal justice involvement get their lives back on track by expungement.
Will you and the Christian Council collaborate with our community justice partners to bring magistrates/judges, prosecutors, court clerks, and pro bono attorneys into the space of a sanctuary to expedite paperwork and processing, provide on-site legal counsel, and speed up the expungement process?”
 
The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana (BNMC) was appointed in July 2018 after the Regional Commission on Marijuana put forward the view that in a regulated framework marijuana should be treated similarly to tobacco and alcohol.

The commission’s preliminary report was leaked to the media in January and later tabled in Parliament in early February.

Among its 24 recommendations, the BNCM has advised the government to allow individuals prescribed medical cannabis to be able to grow sufficient plants for their use; to allow tourists who are prescribed medical cannabis in their countries to obtain it in The Bahamas, and to allow the importation of regulated cannabis products for ailments.

Cannabis possession would be decriminalized up to one ounce or less for personal use for people 21 years or older and laws would be amended for the immediate expungement of small possession criminal records.

The commission stopped short of recommending the legalization of recreational marijuana, insisting that the issue needs to be explored further before a consensus can be garnered.

The Economic Recovery Committee has recommended in the executive summary of its report that a dual format of reform should be implemented, which would see the legalization of religious and medical marijuana and the decriminalization of small amounts.